Embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett is now considered a “suspect” for filing a false police report, evidence of which has been presented before a grand jury, a Chicago Police Department spokesman announced on Wednesday.
Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury. pic.twitter.com/FhDcbBKsuU
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 20, 2019
The announcement came after Smollett’s attorneys met with prosecutors and detectives on Wednesday. Smollett initially told police that he was attacked outside of a Subway restaurant at around 2 a.m. on January 29 by two masked men who allegedly beat him, poured an unknown chemical on him, and placed a noose around his neck. Smollett later added that the men had yelled, “This is MAGA country” as they fled, a detail he reported only after TMZ claimed it had taken place.
Chicago police announced last Friday that the focus of their investigation had “shifted” after interviewing two Nigerian brothers, one of whom worked as an extra on Empire, and both of whom claimed that Smollett had paid them to stage the attack. The brothers also told police that Smollett was motivated to stage the attack after he sent himself a threatening a letter and did not receive the attention from co-workers and fans that he believed the letter warranted.
“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 provided to CBS Chicago on February 19.
Smollett has repeatedly denied that he staged the attack and has maintained that he was the victim of a hate crime.
Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx, Chicago’s top prosecutor, recused herself from the Smollett investigation on Tuesday, citing “familiarity with potential witnesses.”
“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.
Filing a false police report is a class-four felony and typically results in a prison sentence of two to ten years.