UPDATE 2/20 at 7:58 p.m.
Multiple reports are now saying Smollett has been officially charged with felony disorderly conduct by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office.
UPDATE 2/20 at 7:16 p.m.
Multiple reports now say Jussie Smollett is a suspect in a false attack story that has lit up social media in the past weeks. TMZ.com reports that there is surveillance photo of the brothers at a Chicago store purchasing ski masks and red hats.
CHICAGO (AP) — Detectives suspect that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett filed a false police report when he said he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck, a police official said Wednesday.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi also said detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects in the Jan. 29 beating testified before a grand jury. If indicted for filing a false report, a felony, the actor would face a possible prison sentence of one to three years and could be forced to pay for the cost of the investigation.
Smollett’s attorneys met with prosecutors and police earlier Wednesday. It was unknown what they discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting. The attorneys did not reply to requests for comment.
— Rob Elgas (@RobElgasABC7) February 20, 2019
The police announcement came after a flurry of activity in recent days that included lengthy interviews of the brothers by authorities, a search of their home and their release after police cleared them.
Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected. But it became increasingly clear that serious questions had arisen about Smollett’s account — something police signaled Friday when they announced a “significant shift in the trajectory” of the probe after the brothers were freed.
I tracked down surveillance of the Osundairo’s buying supplies before “attack”
Sources say Jussie Smollet told brothers what to buy.
Countless phone calls placed for this.
— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 20, 2019
The brothers, who were identified by their attorney as Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett before being released.
The next day, police said the men provided information that had “shifted the trajectory of the investigation” and detectives had requested another interview with Smollett.
The Osundairos’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Smollett’s lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, have said the actor was angered and “victimized” by reports suggesting that he may have played a role in staging the attack.
“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” Pugh and Henderson said Saturday in a statement.
If Smollett’s account is determined to be a fabrication, legal experts say he could be charged with any number of felonies. The most obvious charge is felony disorderly conduct, which is legalese for filing a false police report.
Such a charge is fairly common. In Boone County, Illinois, for example, a woman is awaiting trial on allegations that she called in a false threat of a gunman in September. The call prompted a police search for a suspect and put several area schools on lockdown.
Former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg recently represented a client who was charged with the same crime when her account of being robbed by three men at O’Hare Airport came apart. Police found surveillance video that showed the woman and an accomplice walking through the airport without the items they claimed were stolen.
Another possibility is an obstruction-of-justice charge. Both crimes are Class 4 felonies, which in addition to prison time carry the possibility of a fine of $25,000.
Weisberg said judges rarely throw defendants in prison, opting instead to place them on probation, particularly if they have no prior criminal record.
Smollett has a record — one that concerns giving false information to police when he was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. According to records, he was also charged with false impersonation and driving without a license. He later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge and took an alcohol education and treatment program.
Another prospective problem is the bill someone might receive after falsely reporting a crime that prompted a massive investigation that lasted nearly a month and included the collection and review of hundreds of hours of surveillance video.
The size of the tab is anyone’s guess, but given how much time the police have invested, the cost could be huge.
For an investigation that took only a single day, Weisberg’s client had to split restitution of $8,400, Weisberg said. In Smollett’s case, “I can imagine that this would be easily into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Also Wednesday, Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, announced that she had recused herself from the investigation.
Her office explained that Foxx made the decision “out of an abundance of caution” because of conversations she had with one of Smollett’s family members just after the report. When the relative expressed concerns about the case, Foxx “facilitated a connection” between the family member and detectives, according to a statement.
Foxx said the case would be handled to her first assistant, Joseph Magats, a 28-year veteran prosecutor.
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s top prosecutor recused herself from the investigation into the attack reported by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett shortly after police requested another interview with the actor.
The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx offered few specifics Tuesday when announcing that Foxx was recusing herself from the case, which police said had “shifted” after detectives released two Nigerian brothers who were initially deemed suspects.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” said Foxx spokeswoman Tandra Simonton, who wouldn’t specify how Foxx was familiar with anyone in the case. Simonton said Foxx would have no further comment.
Smollett has said two masked men hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him before beating him up early on Jan. 29. The actor, who is black and gay, said the men then looped a rope around his neck.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said last week that media reports about the attack being a hoax were unconfirmed by case detectives. But on Saturday, police said the “investigation had shifted” following interviews with the brothers and their release from custody without charges. Police later requested another interview with Smollett.
Smollett’s lawyers have said the actor was angered and “victimized” by reports he may have played a role in staging the attack.
“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson said in a statement late Saturday.
Anne Kavanagh, a spokeswoman for Smollett’s lawyers, said they would “keep an active dialogue with Chicago police on his behalf.” Kavanagh didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
A California misdemeanor complaint against Smollett in 2007 shows the actor pleaded no contest to giving false information to police when he was pulled over for driving while under the influence.
Court records show Smollett was accused of identifying himself as his younger brother and signing a false name on the promise to appear in court. Smollett was later charged with false impersonation, driving under the influence and driving without a valid license. He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge and took an alcohol education and treatment program.
The details of the complaint were first reported by NBC News.
Smollett told police he was attacked while getting a sandwich around 2 a.m. near his home in downtown Chicago. He said the men also shouted, “This is MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Smollett also said the attackers poured some kind of chemical on him.
Police looked through hours of video surveillance from the area but found no footage of an attack.
Investigators did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question. And last week, police picked up the two brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria and questioned them about the attack. They also searched the apartment where the men live.
The men, who had been held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett, were released Friday. Guglielmi said the next day that information police received from the men “has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.”