Jussie Smollett has gone from victim to suspect in his alleged hate crime attack, Chicago police said Wednesday.
The Empire star has now been charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report last month, when he claimed to be the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Wednesday night the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved the charges against the star.
“Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct/Filing a False Police Report,” he tweeted at 7:53 p.m. ET. “Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest.”
Earlier in the day, when Guglielmi announced Smollett had been named a suspect in the case, he said filing a false police report is a class 4 felony in Chicago.
“Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony),” Guglielmi wrote on Twitter.
Smollett filed a police report on Jan. 29, saying he was assaulted by two masked men while walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at around 2 a.m.
The Empire star told officers he was beaten, doused with a chemical and had a rope placed around his neck. The performer, who is African-American and openly gay, said the attackers yelled “this is MAGA country,” before they ran away.
Smollett initially received support from fans, politicians and civil rights activists. But after police said they were unable to find video of the incident — even though the area is surrounded by surveillance cameras — some social media users began to accuse the actor of staging the attack.
Police later released an image from a surveillance camera located near where Smollett said he was assaulted, and two “potential persons of interest” were taken into custody on Feb. 13.
The men, identified as Nigerian brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, were questioned for two days and released without charges when new evidence surfaced from their interrogations. Officers raided the men’s home and collected evidence including shoes and electronic devices.
At least one of the men appeared on Empire as an extra, police said.
Local media reports said the brothers told investigators Smollett paid them $3,500 up front to stage his attack, with a promise of more money later. On Wednesday afternoon, CBS 2 Chicago aired video that purportedly showed the two men buying a red hat and ski masks from a store the day before the assault.
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
CBS 2 said sources told the station one of the brothers held the rope and poured bleach, while the other wore a red hat and yelled racist and homophobic slurs at Smollett.
Citing sources, the station alleged that Smollett directed the brothers to obtain the items used in the attack, and the trio rehearsed the assault. The brothers spoke out on Feb. 19, saying there are not anti-Trump.
“We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens,” they told CBS 2 by phone.
Detectives working the case are trying to obtain the actor’s financial records and phone logs, after phone records given to police were rejected because they had been “redacted.”
Smollett, his reps and his attorneys have all repeatedly said the actor is telling the truth about the attack.
On Feb. 14, Smollett appeared in an emotional interview on Good Morning America, and insisted he was the victim of a hate crime. The actor shed tears and told host Robin Roberts he was angry that people continued to question his account of the incident.
“I’m pissed off. It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks,” he said. “At first it was the thing of like, listen, if I tell the truth then that’s because it’s the truth. Then it became a thing of, like, how can you doubt that? How can you not believe that? It’s the truth.”
He went on to say he believed he was targeted because he frequently criticizes President Donald Trump.
“I come really, really hard against 45. I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue,” he stated.
Days earlier, Trump called the attack “horrible” and said, “It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.”
Meanwhile, the team behind Empire has continued to voice support for Smollett. In a video posted to Instagram on Jan. 29, series co-creator Lee Daniels said, “You didn’t deserve, nor anyone deserves, to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called die fa—tt n—er or whatever they said to you.”
On Wednesday morning, Fox — which airs he series — issued a statement saying it stands behind Smollett and denied reports he is being written off of Empire.
“Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show,” 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment said.