Jussie Smollett, 36, was criminally charged on Wednesday night in Chicago for filing fake police report just hours after surveillance footage emerged of the Nigerian brothers in alleged ‘attack’ buying black ski masks and a red hat
He is charged with filing a false police report, a Class 4 felony after Video of them buying ski masks and red hat day before the attack has emerged
Cook County State’s Attorney approved charges after grand jury indicted, cops say that he hoaxed a hate crime assault on himself on January 29
Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, former ‘persons of interest’, but now cooperating with investigators were earlier seen entering grand jury
Video emerged of the brothers buying items used in the alleged assault – ski masks and a red hat – a day before the attack
Smollett, who has hired a team of lawyers, denies that he made up his story with his attorneys saying he ‘enjoys the presumption of innocence’ in the case
If convicted, the charges carry a maximum sentence of three years and a fine of up to $25,000
Feds also still investigating hate mail that Smollett claimed he received
Jussie Smollett is charged with felony filing a false police report in Chicago
A cast member of the popular TV drama Jussie Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report after claiming he had been attacked in what police believe was a hate hoax.
The Chicago PD announced on Wednesday night that the Cook County State’s Attorney Office had approved the criminal charges against Smollett.
‘Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,’ police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement.
Police suspect that Smollett who is black and openly gay, staged a racist and homophobic assault against himself on January 29, which he claimed was carried out by white men who shouted ‘this is MAGA country’ as they put a noose around his neck.
The 36-year-old actor is due in bond court on Thursday.
Smollett is seen in hospital after the Jan 29 incident. Chicago police said the alleged attack was a hoax
He was charged with filing a false police report, a Class 4 felony which carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
Smollett’s attorneys in a statement said that he would vigorously contest the charges.
‘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,’ attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said. ‘Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.’
Earlier on Wednesday police announced that they were classifying Smollett as a ‘suspect in a criminal investigation’ and a grand jury was impaneled to hear evidence in the case.
Brothers Abimbola ‘Abel’ and Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, whom police believe participated in staging the attack, testified before the grand jury for about two and a half hours, their attorney said.
Their testimony came as video footage emerged of the Nigerian brothers buying ski masks, a red hat and gloves in a store the day before Smollett reported the attack.
The footage was obtained by CBS on Wednesday.
It was taken on January 28 and shows brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo inside what looks like a drug store buying the masks and one hat.
Smollett told police that he was attacked by two masked assailants who punched him, poured bleach on him, tied a noose around his neck and called him ‘Empire n****r f****t’.
Investigators are yet to find footage of the incident itself.
The brothers were picked up by police at Chicago O’Hare Airport on Wednesday night as they returned from Nigeria. They had flown there on January 29, hours after Smollett reported the attack and a day after they were filmed in the store.
While in police custody last week, they reportedly told police Smollett paid them $3,500 to carry out the attack and that he also told them where to buy the rope that was put around his neck.
That was purchased in a separate store, according to police sources.
The video was shared on Wednesday as Smollett’s attorneys met with prosecutors and police in Chicago.
Smollett, who claims he did not know his attackers and that it was a racist and homophobic ambush, maintains he was telling the truth.
Frustrated with the coverage of his case, he hit out at the media for reporting on leaked information coming from within the Chicago police department and insisted he was the victim.
He then went on Good Morning America to protest his innocence.
In an hour-long interview with Robin Roberts, he wept as he recalled the attack and abhorred the reaction to it.
Choking back tears, he explained when asked why it took so long for him to contact the authorities: ‘There is a level of pride there. We live in a society where as a gay man you are considered somehow to be weak and I am not weak. I am not weak and we as a people are not weak.’
Later, he added how desperate he was for them to find footage of the attack.
‘I want that video found so badly because, for probably four reasons. ‘Number one, I want them to find the people that did it.
‘Number two, I want them to stop being able to say ‘alleged’ attack.
‘Number three, I want them to see that I fought back,’ he continued, welling-up.
‘I want a little gay boy who might watch this to see that I fought the f*** back. They ran off,’ I didn’t,’ he said.
After it emerged that Smollett knew the brothers and may have been involved in the staging of the attack, the celebrities and politicians who rushed to support him walked back their claims.