UPDATE (Tuesday, March 26): All charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped on Tuesday, March 26, after the Empire star made an emergency court appearance. Smollett had been facing 16 federal charges after he allegedly staged his own hate crime and filed a false police report in Chicago following a January 29 incident.
— Marcus Washington (@MarcusNBC) March 26, 2019
On Thursday, February 21, Empire star Jussie Smollett turned himself into the Chicago Police Department on a felony charge for allegedly filing a false police report regarding his story of being the victim of a hate crime in Chicago where he claimed the attackers yelled racial and homophobic slurs.
Hours after his arrest, the police have released the first look at Smollett’s mugshot.
Smollett turned himself into police at around 5:00 a.m. local time and is set for a bond hearing later today.
“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” the police superintendent said at a press conference, as transcribed by Hollywood Life. “I’m left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?
“Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who’s in need of support of police and citizens. Chicago hosts one of the largest pride parades in the world. We do not, nor will we ever, tolerate hate in our city, whether that hate is based on sexual orientation, race or anything else. This publicity stunt was a scar Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve. To make things worse, this phony attack received national attention for weeks. Celebs, news commentators, and even presidential candidates weighed in on something choreographed by an actor.”
The felony charge stems from Smollett’s claim that he was attacked in a potential hate crime by two assailants in Chicago. According to Smollett, the alleged attackers screamed homophobic and racial slurs before attacking him. However, it is now believed that Smollett paid two Nigerian brothers to orchestrate the attack on himself.
The brothers, who are no longer suspects, began cooperating with police before the investigation shifted.
According to Illinois state law, filing a false police report is punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison. Smollett could also face a fine of $25,000 if it is determined he lied to the Chicago Police Department.
However, Smollett’s legal team maintains his innocence.
“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,” his attorneys said in a statement. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
We will provide an update on Smollett’s legal situation as more information becomes available following his bail hearing in the afternoon.