Following the announcement that he is now considered a “suspect” by Chicago police for filing a false police report about an alleged attack on Jan. 29, Empire star Jussie Smollett was charged with federal disorderly conduct on Wednesday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed.
According to relevant section of the Illinois statute, a disorderly conduct charge occurs when a person “Transmits or causes to be transmitted in any manner to any peace officer, public officer or public employee a report to the effect that an offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed, knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for believing that the offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed; Transmits or causes to be transmitted a false report to any public safety agency without the reasonable grounds necessary to believe that transmitting the report is necessary for the safety and welfare of the public; or Calls the number ‘911’ for the purpose of making or transmitting a false alarm or complaint and reporting information when, at the time the call or transmission is made, the person knows there is no reasonable ground for making the call or transmission and further knows that the call or transmission could result in the emergency response of any public safety agency.”
This development comes just hours after Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted that detectives were presenting evidence before a Cook County grand jury. Fox, 20th Century Fox Television and representatives for Smollett declined to comment on the new classification.
In response to the news, Smollett’s lawyers said in a statement: “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. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Fox and 20th Century Fox TV renewed its defense of the Empire actor, writing in a new statement, “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,” the network and studio said in a statement.
Smollett originally claimed that he was attacked in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago on Jan. 29 by two men in dark clothing who called him homophobic and racial slurs. The Empire actor said the pair punched him, poured bleach on him and slung a noose around his neck while also invoking Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “MAGA” (“Make America Great Again”). One week prior, the actor received a threatening letter at Fox’s Chicago studios. Smollett, who is openly gay, plays a gay musician on Empire named Jamal Lyon.
In the weeks following Smollett’s claim, Chicago police initially identified two suspects, brothers of Nigerian origin, one of whom had trained Smollett for a music video. After questioning the police released the pair and said the investigation had taken a turn in a new direction.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.