Jussie Smollett Arrested as He Faces Felony Charge for Allegedly Filing False Police Report
Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer for the Chicago police, confirmed on Twitter on Thursday morning that the Empire actor is “under arrest and in custody of detectives.”
Tom Ahern, deputy director of news affairs and communications for the Chicago police, also confirmed the arrest on Twitter, writing, “Chicago Police Detectives take #Empire actor #JussieSmollett into custody to face Class 4 Felony charge (punishable for up to 3yrs in prison) for Disorderly Conduct in Falsifying Police report.”
Smollett’s bond hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. CST on Thursday.
The arrest news comes after Smollett and his legal team said they are gearing up to launch an “aggressive defense.”
“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,” Smollett’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement given to PEOPLE on Wednesday.
“Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
On Wednesday, PEOPLE confirmed that Smollett had been charged. A spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office said at the time, “The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has approved a disorderly conduct charge on Jussie Smollett.”
Guglielmi also confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that Smollett faces felony charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
If Smollett is found guilty, falsifying a police report is a Class 4 felony which carries a potential sentence of one to three years in prison.
Just hours before the charges were approved by the state attorney’s office, Smollett was officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by police for filing a false police report.
Police named the star as a suspect after confirming to PEOPLE that he was questioned again by prosecutors.
The initial report about the alleged attack raised alarm: The openly gay black actor claimed to police that he’d been physically attacked on the street in his downtown Chicago neighborhood around 2 a.m. local time on Jan. 29 by two black-clad, masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs, doused him with an “unknown chemical substance” and left him with a rope around his neck.
“This is MAGA country,” Smollett claimed one assailant said, invoking President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan perceived by some as a discriminatory dismissal of minorities and immigrants. Smollett’s family branded the incident a racial and homophobic hate crime, and others on social media followed suit.
Last week, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo — identified in surveillance footage on the night of the incident — were arrested and released without charges. The following day, reports emerged that the brothers claimed the Empire star paid them to stage the incident.
An attorney for the men, Gloria Schmidt, previously told CBS Chicago that the men know Smollett from working on Empire and occasionally go to the same gym as the actor. She did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment at the time.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” according to a statement from Smollett’s lawyers. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continued. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.”