Jussie Smollett Has Been Arrested & Faces Felony Charges

On January 29, actor/vocalist Jussie Smollett reported a disgusting crime in Chicago, Illinois. The Empire cast member alleged that two men verbally and physically assaulted him near the entrance of the city’s Loews Hotel and made reference to his race, sexual orientation, and politics. Per Smollett’s report, a rope was tied around his neck, and a liquid believed to be bleach was doused on him. In Smollett’s account, the men, allegedly wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats, told the actor after the attack, “this is MAGA country.” Those words followed a series of slurs decrying the Black and gay actor.

In January, Smollett left Northwestern Hospital with minor injuries, while the Chicago Police Department began investigating a presumed hate crime.

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Early this morning (February 21), the 36-year-old Smollett was arrested in Chicago on suspicion of making false police reports. He has a bail hearing planned for this afternoon. The actor faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct in making the falsified report. According to CNN, under Illinois law, filing a false police report is disorderly conduct and punishable by one to three years.

Smollett is reportedly maintaining 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 legal team said through a statement, warning of an “aggressive defense” following a “thorough investigation.”

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That information has been reaching the public, especially over the last 10 days. CNN has learned from multiple sources that the Chicago PD’s investigation believes Smollett paid two brothers, Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo to orchestrate a staged attack. Those men were taken in by law enforcement for questioning last Wednesday. They were released. An attorney for the men told media outside the courthouse that the pair had accepted money from Smollett, but did not specify how much. The lawyer added that no plea deal or immunity had been granted after the two men testified before a grand jury for over two hours. The attorney maintains that neither man committed any crime. During this period, a surveillance camera footage of a beauty supply store showed who is believed to be the two men, purchasing some of the materials used in the attack. To further complicate matters, one of the men reported has acting credits on Empire, per the police department’s spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi.

A source close to Jussie also revealed that days before the attack, a letter was sent to the Empire production in Chicago, to the attention of the actor. That mail included a white powder, later confirmed to be aspirin, with drawings of lynching, with guns aimed at the man hanging. “MAGA” was written as the return address. This week, Variety reported that Empire producers are considering suspending Smollett if it is determined he made false claims.

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Jussie Smollett pleaded no contest to a previous charge involving false information. A dozen years ago, in California, the actor provided law enforcement with a fake name during a DUI stop that led to an arrest. Smollett was fined and sentenced to two years of probation.