Just over three weeks after Jussie Smollett filed a police report in Chicago claiming he was the victim of a possible hate crime, the city's authorities came to the decision that the evidence showed those initial claims were indeed falsified. As such, the Empire star was officially declared a suspect on February 20, and in the early morning hours on Thursday, February 21, Smollett was arrested after surrendering to Chicago police.
Anthony Guglielmi, the Chief Communications Officer for Chicago PD, took to Twitter to make the announcement, seen below.
Press Briefing: Jussie Smollet [sic] is under arrest and in custody of detectives. At 9am at #ChicagoPolice Headquarters, Supt Eddie Johnson, Commander of Area Central Detectives Edward Wodnicki will brief reporters on the investigation prior to the defendants appearance in court.
On Wednesday, updates on the case designated Jussie Smollett an official suspect of a Class 4 felony for filing a false police report in connection with his alleged late-night attack. Now that he's been arrested, he's facing a felony criminal charge of disorderly conduct, and the result of this case could change the actor's life and future considerably.
If found guilty of the disorderly conduct charge tethered to filing a faux report, Jussie Smollett could face up to three years in prison. Such a prison stint would almost definitely derail his TV career on Fox's Empire, whose cast and showrunner have shown major support for Smollett ever since the night of the alleged attack. His burgeoning music career, which is largely tied to Empire's success, could also be affected in big ways.
At the time when the criminal indictment was given the go-ahead by the Cook County State Attorney's office, Chicago PD's Anthony Guglielmi announced that the detectives were making contact with Jussie Smollett's legal team in order to try and make it a safe and peaceful surrender.
Smollett's legal team was still on the defense whenever the actor was officially declared a suspect, but things have obviously taken a downward turn. The press conference this morning in Chicago should help to clear up some of the still-murky details surrounding the arrest and official charges.
For some background: On the night of January 29, Jussie Smollett claimed two men in ski masks started hollering racist and homophobic insults at him and subsequently physically attacked him. Smollett claimed they beat him down and then doused him with a chemical substance that was thought to be bleach. Then, the actor says they tied a noose around his neck, at which point they ran off, and Smollett was admitted to a nearby hospital.
Many were immediately suspicious of the actor's claims, given some conflicts involving physical evidence needed to prove Jussie Smollett's accusations true. Some people claimed Smollett had been seen walking around in public earlier that evening with a rope allegedly already tied around his neck. As well, police were reportedly unable to find any surveillance camera footage of the attack, even though there were an abundance of cameras in the area were the attack allegedly took place.
Two Nigerian brothers with connection to the alleged attack were brought in for questioning as "persons of interest" on February 13, Police discovered the brothers actually had ties to Empire as extras, and one of the brothers reportedly served as a personal trainer for one of Smollett's music videos. Citing new evidence, the Chicago PD later released two two brothers without charging them.
Empire went back into production this week after some weather-related delays. Rumors abound that Jussie Smollett's role in the show would be heavily cut down in the aftermath of this controversy, at least the for the episode that is currently filming. Now that Smollett has been arrested, though, it's unclear how the producers will go about handling things.
Empire is set to return to Fox for the back half of Season 5 on Wednesday, March 13, at 8:00 p.m., but don't be too surprised if the network and producers need to shift things around depending on where this case goes next. Stay tuned for more details as they emerge.