“Empire” star Jussie Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report, a felony.
“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,” Chicago Police chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi said Wednesday.
In a statement, Smollett’s attorneys vowed to ” mount an aggressive defense.”
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
20th Century Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.
On Wednesday, Smollett was officially named a suspect in his own assault case.
Smollett reported Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” After releasing two former suspects over the weekend, police said they wanted to interview Smollett again — and then declared him the suspect.
Earlier on Wednesday, Fox had renewed its support of Smollett, saying, “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.”
That statement came amid reports, including one here, that Smollett’s role of Jamal Lyon would be reduced over the remainder of “Empire’s” fifth season.
Since Smollett’s first police report on Jan. 29, the investigation took many turns, with varying degrees of cooperation from Smollett. At one point, police brought in brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo as persons of interest. As it turned out, both had worked on “Empire.”
The brothers were released without charges last Friday after the police said “new evidence” had emerged and that the investigation’s “trajectory” had changed course. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Chicago police believed that Smollett might have paid the brothers to stage the attack.
A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. On Tuesday, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.
Also on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation to avoid “potential questions of impartiality,” a rep for Foxx said. First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats has been set to act as prosecutor in her place.
More to come…