Jussie Smollett to Launch an 'Aggressive Defense' After Being Charged with Filing False Police ReportFebruary 21, 2019
Jussie Smollett and his legal team are gearing up to launch an “aggressive defense” after the actor, 36, was charged with filing a false police report about his alleged hate attack.
“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.
“Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office said: “The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has approved a disorderly conduct charge on Jussie Smollett.”
Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer for the Chicago police, also confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that the Empire actor faces felony charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
“Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” Guglielmi also tweeted.
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.
Smollett is due in court in Chicago at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
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 Wednesday by prosecutors.
The initial report about the alleged attack raised alarm: The openly gay black actor, singer and activist, told police he’d been physically attacked on the street in his downtown Chicago neighborhood around 2 a.m. 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,” at least one assailant allegedly 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.
Smollett defended himself against the claims in a recent interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts.
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 immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“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 his 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.”
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