Jussie Smollett charged with felony for alleged false report of hate-crime attack

  • "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report with the Chicago Police Department on Jan. 29.
  • Smollett claimed he was assaulted by two masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs.
  • Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told NBC News that the investigation into the alleged attack has demanded "considerable" police resources.
Jussie Smollett attends the Thurgood Marshall College Fund gala on Oct. 23, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Tasos Katopodis | Getty Images
Jussie Smollett attends the Thurgood Marshall College Fund gala on Oct. 23, 2017 in Washington, DC.

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was charged Wednesday with a felony for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a hate-crime attack in Chicago, according to the Cook County State's Attorney office.

Smollett is charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report with the Chicago Police Department on Jan. 29 in which he claimed he was assaulted by two masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs.

The actor, 36, who is black and gay, also said his attackers poured what he believed was bleach over him and put a noose around his neck.

Smollett is expected in court for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told NBC News earlier Wednesday that Smollett's attorneys had talked with prosecutors in the morning.

Police investigated the reported attack as a "possible hate crime," and some celebrities, including "Empire" cast members, and gay-rights advocates flocked to social media to express their support for Smollett.

But some other social media users began to question his claims when police said they were not able to find video of the incident after going through a plethora of footage from many surveillance cameras in the affluent Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, where the attack allegedly occurred.

Guglielmi told NBC News that the investigation into the alleged attack has demanded "considerable" police resources. He said that at one point the department had 12 detectives scouring surveillance videos.

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On Jan. 30, police released pictures from a surveillance camera located near where Smollett said he was attacked that showed two men who police said were "potential persons of interest."

The two men were taken into custody on Feb. 13 and questioned. They were released two days later, on Friday, without charges. Police said the two, who are brothers, were no longer suspects in the case and were cooperating in the probe.

On Saturday, a police source said the probe had shifted into whether the actor had paid the two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, to stage an assault. Investigators had discovered that the brothers had purchased the rope used in the alleged attack.

Guglielmi said then that investigators wanted to have another interview with Smollett.

Smollett didn't talk to police on Monday or Tuesday. However, Ola and Abel Osundairo met with police and prosecutors at a criminal court building on Tuesday, according to police spokesman Tom Ahern.

That same afternoon, police investigated, and then discounted, a tip they received that Smollett was seen with the Osundairo brothers on the night of the attack.

Also on Tuesday, the chief prosecutor in the Chicago area, Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx, recused herself from the case "based upon familiarity with potential witnesses," a spokesperson for Foxx's office said in an email.

"Shortly after the incident occurred in late January, State's Attorney Foxx had conversations with a family member of Jussie Smollett about the incident and their concerns, and facilitated a connection to the Chicago Police Department who were investigating the incident," spokesman Robert Foley said Wednesday.

Foxx's first assistant prosecutor, Joe Magats, will handle the case.

Smollett has told police he was on the phone with his manager during the alleged attack, and the manager said he heard the attackers say, "This is MAGA country." The actor refused to hand over his cellphone to police, but later gave investigators a PDF file containing a limited list of his calls.

Police said the manager, Brandon Moore, is not a suspect but is rather a "cooperating witness.

Choreographer Frank Gatson, who made the 911 call about the alleged incident to police, is also considered a "cooperating witness," police said.

On Wednesday, Fox refuted a TMZ story claiming Smollett's scenes on the show were "getting slashed" from nine to four.

"Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show," 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement.

Fox had no comment after police announced Smollett was a suspect Wednesday.

In his first interview about the incident last week, the actor told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he was angry about the alleged attack and that people were doubting him.

"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more, and that says a lot about the place we are in our country right now," Smollett said.