‘Empire’ actor charged with making false police report

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was charged Wednesday with making 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, police said.

Posted: Feb 20, 2019 10:30 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was charged Wednesday with making 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, police said.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said prosecutors charged Smollett with felony disorderly conduct, an offense that could bring one to three years in prison and force the actor to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report of a Jan. 29 beating.

Authorities were trying to get in touch with Smollett’s attorneys to “negotiate a reasonable surrender,” Guglielmi said. That could involve the actor, who is black and gay, turning himself in to a Chicago police station.

Police did not have a time frame for how long the actor would be given.

“We are trying to be diplomatic and reasonable, and we’re hoping he does the same,” Guglielmi said.

The charges emerged on the same day that detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects testified before a grand jury. Smollett’s attorneys met with prosecutors and police, but it was unknown what they discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting.

In a statement, attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said 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.”

The announcement of the charges followed a flurry of activity in recent days, including 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.

Smollett, who plays a gay character on the hit Fox television show, said he was attacked as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop. He said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled “This is MAGA country” — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” — before fleeing.

Earlier Wednesday, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement saying Smollett “continues to be a consummate professional on set” and that his character is not being written off the show. The series is shot in Chicago and follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.

The studio’s statement followed reports that Smollett’s role was being slashed amid the police investigation.

Whispers about Smollett’s potential role in the attack started with reports that he had not fully cooperated with police and word that detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the attack.

Detectives did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question and last week picked up the brothers at O’Hare Airport as they returned from Nigeria. Police questioned the men and searched their apartment.

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.

The day after they were released, police said the men provided information that had ”shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” and detectives requested another interview with Smollett.

Police said one of the men had appeared on “Empire,” and Smollett’s attorneys said one of the men is the actor’s personal trainer, whom he hired to help get him physically ready for a music video. The actor released his debut album, “Sum of My Music,” last year.

Smollett was charged by prosecutors, not the grand jury. The police spokesman said the brothers appeared before the panel to “lock in their testimony.”

Speaking outside the courthouse where the grand jury met, the brothers’ attorney said the two men testified for about two and a half hours.

“There was a point where this story needed to be told, and they manned up and they said we’re going to correct this,” Gloria Schmidt said.

She said her clients did not care about a plea deal or immunity. “You don’t need immunity when you have the truth,” she said.

She also said her clients received money from Smollett, but she did not elaborate.

Smollett has been active in LBGTQ issues, and initial reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media, including from Sen. Kamala Harris of California and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Referring to a published account of the attack, President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that “it doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.”

But several hours after Smollett was declared a suspect and the charges announced, there was little reaction from celebrities online.

Former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg said judges rarely throw defendants in prison for making false reports, 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 nearly monthlong investigation, including 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.

Weisberg recently represented a client who was charged with making a false report after surveillance video discredited her account of being robbed by three men at O’Hare Airport.

For an investigation that took only a single day, his 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.”

Earlier this week, Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, announced that she had recused herself from the investigation.

Her office explained Wednesday 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.

___

Terre Haute
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
Robinson
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 59°
Indianapolis
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 61°
Rockville
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 55°
Casey
Overcast
58° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 58°
Brazil
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Marshall
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 63°
Breezy, Warmer Thursday
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 354457

Reported Deaths: 9537
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1664575369
DuPage21231599
Lake19714506
Will17106422
Kane15616342
Winnebago9314167
St. Clair7623213
Madison6832152
Champaign574128
McHenry5726120
Peoria431064
McLean391831
Rock Island372189
Unassigned3627260
Sangamon355660
Kankakee319078
Macon263348
Kendall248527
Tazewell244549
LaSalle220760
DeKalb213842
Coles179838
Williamson173758
Boone168725
Adams165915
Clinton163124
Vermilion15627
Jackson144325
Whiteside116722
Randolph115914
Knox11519
Effingham10953
Ogle10897
Grundy8897
Jefferson86744
Franklin8666
Marion86613
Monroe86128
Bureau85517
Stephenson8207
Morgan81024
Henry7987
Christian78425
Macoupin74110
Union73825
McDonough66815
Fayette63821
Crawford6306
Lee6271
Shelby5928
Douglas5638
Livingston55710
Montgomery55515
Woodford55311
Logan5474
Saline5057
Bond4719
Warren4647
Iroquois45919
Jersey45621
Cass45011
Wayne44011
Jo Daviess4367
Fulton4290
Perry40916
Moultrie3785
Carroll3678
Johnson3220
Richland31815
Lawrence3068
Hancock2853
Clay28411
Washington2771
Clark2729
Greene27015
Pike2674
Cumberland2586
Jasper25010
Mason2381
White2351
De Witt2333
Pulaski2261
Mercer2256
Piatt2180
Wabash2105
Ford1829
Menard1651
Edgar1478
Massac1412
Marshall1403
Hamilton1142
Henderson1110
Alexander1091
Gallatin1052
Edwards990
Brown980
Scott950
Putnam860
Schuyler801
Stark802
Calhoun670
Hardin490
Pope361
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 150664

Reported Deaths: 4008
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24697784
Lake13220352
St. Joseph8877159
Elkhart8469132
Allen7880222
Hamilton5962113
Vanderburgh559360
Tippecanoe354714
Monroe320738
Hendricks3183130
Johnson2995128
Porter297848
Clark285461
Delaware282074
Vigo252637
Madison229593
Cass222021
LaPorte215557
Warrick188464
Kosciusko176823
Floyd174867
Howard158866
Bartholomew139758
Dubois135125
Marshall132526
Henry122628
Grant120939
Wayne119327
Boone118848
Hancock114145
Noble113533
Jackson108713
Morgan92240
Dearborn91628
Daviess84033
Gibson83411
Clinton81616
Shelby79429
Lawrence78534
LaGrange76715
Harrison74024
Putnam71016
Knox70310
DeKalb69411
Posey6796
Steuben6008
Fayette58517
Miami5845
Montgomery57222
White56815
Jasper5624
Greene51837
Scott50813
Decatur49839
Adams4725
Clay4346
Whitley4316
Sullivan42812
Ripley4228
Wells4155
Starke3937
Wabash3919
Orange38725
Huntington3785
Spencer3706
Franklin36525
Jennings36013
Washington3592
Randolph3398
Fulton3362
Jefferson3305
Pike31913
Carroll31413
Perry29514
Jay2876
Fountain2863
Tipton26823
Parke2203
Newton21811
Vermillion2181
Rush2044
Owen2021
Martin1950
Blackford1923
Crawford1491
Pulaski1471
Brown1303
Ohio1227
Benton1070
Union1040
Switzerland890
Warren751
Unassigned0233