"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, after claiming for weeks he was the victim of a hate crime at the hands of two Donald Trump supporters.
Within hours of the Chicago police officially classifying Smollett as a suspect in their investigation, the Cook County State’s Attorney's Office approved a class 4 felony charge against him, according to Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
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Prosecutors said a bail hearing is anticipated for 1:30 p.m. CT Thursday. Guglielmi wrote, "Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest."
Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest. pic.twitter.com/LvBSYE2kVj
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 21, 2019
Smollett alleged that two men beat him up in a Chicago street in the middle of the night on Jan. 29, poured bleach on him, placed a rope around his neck, and yelled, "This is MAGA country," referring to Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. The police now say they suspect he filed this report falsely.
Smollett, who has been a vocal opponent of Trump and donated $2,000 to Hillary Clinton in 2016, received support from celebrities and top Democrats, including some of the 2020 presidential candidates, after he claimed the assault occurred. They rallied around Smollett after TMZ and other media outlets reported that he was attacked. Sens. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) likened it to a "modern-day lynching."
Acting furious that his story was doubted due to its extraordinary details, Smollett went on "Good Morning America" last week and became emotional several times, at one point worrying his attackers wouldn't be brought to justice. He also reiterated he felt the nature of the attack on him was political, saying he comes "really hard at [Trump]."
Now, authorities suspect the actor paid two brothers he knew from the show, who are now cooperating with law enforcement, to carry out the "attack" as part of an elaborate hoax.
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, Guglielmi told local ABC affiliate WLS-TV that prosecutors were speaking with Smollett's attorneys as part of their investigation.
"We are hopeful that we'll have a chance to ask the questions that we have," Guglielmi said. "It doesn't matter what the investigation shows; if you have information that's helpful to law enforcement, it behooves you to contact authorities and share that information. We have been very diplomatic and have been working with him and his attorneys. We got information, and that what we want [sic] to run by him. If the opportunity is not taken [to come in], we're going to go with other methods to create a culture of accountability."
On Saturday Smollett's attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, released a statement pushing back against the reports that he may have staged the attack.
"As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying," the statement read. "One of these purported suspects was Jussie's personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie's complicity."
UPDATE: 10:35 P.M.: This article was updated with news that Smollett had been officially charged with a crime.