Empire actor Jussie Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct Wednesday evening for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was attacked by two men in Chicago last month.
“Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted Wednesday.
“Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” he added.
The charge was announced shortly after the Chicago Police Department revealed Smollett was now considered a “suspect” in their investigation into his hate-crime report, which was filed late last month.
“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 tweeted. “Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury.”
According to the Illinois General Assembly, a Class 4 felony stipulates a sentence that is “not less than one year and not more than 3 years.”
Smollett’s lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, released a statement Wednesday evening, saying they intend to “conduct a thorough investigation and 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,” they wrote.
Fox, Empire’s network, declined to comment to The Daily Beast about the charges. Sources close to the show told Variety that producers are weighing whether to remove the actor from the cast.
Earlier Wednesday, Smollett’s lawyers met with Cook County prosecutors and police about the reported attack on the actor, authorities confirmed to The Daily Beast Wednesday.
Guglielmi reportedly told ABC 7 Chicago that police don't know where Smollett currently is, and his lawyers have “not shared where he is at this point.”
“We want to do this as peacefully and respectfully as possible,” Guglielmi said.
Smollett alleged that on Jan. 29, two men beat him up, put a rope around his neck, and poured an unknown chemical on him when he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m. The actor also alleged that he was called homophobic and racist slurs during the incident.
“I could only go off of their words. I mean, who says ‘F----- Empire n-----, this is MAGA country, n-----,’ ties a noose around your neck, and pours bleach on you? And this is just a friendly fight?” Smollett said during an interview on Good Morning America last week.
Initially, police investigated the attack as a “possible hate crime,” but could not find video evidence of the incident.
The day after the attack, police released surveillance camera photos that identified two “potential persons of interests” that were eventually brought in and questioned. The two men, Ola and Abel Osundairo, were released Friday without charges, as questions began to swirl about Smollett’s account of the attack.
While being questioned, the brothers reportedly told police the Empire star paid them $3,500 to help stage the attack—and later reimbursed them for the rope. In a new surveillance video released Wednesday, the brothers appear to be seen buying a red hat and ski masks at a convenience store the day before the alleged assault.
“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,” the brothers said in a statement over the weekend.
On Saturday, Guglielmi confirmed on Twitter the probe had “shifted” to whether the actor had paid the two brothers to stage the assault.
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Guglielmi told the Associated Press. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Smollett has repeatedly denied claims he staged the assault, and his lawyers claim the allegations he concocted the incident “further victimize him.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation on Tuesday, but did not provide any details for her decision.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said in a statement, without elaborating how the state’s top prosecutor was familiar with anyone in the case.