On Wednesday, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was charged with filing a false police report in Chicago after he claimed to have been attacked in the city last month by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi stated prosecutors also charged Smollett, 36, with felony disorderly conduct. This could carry a punishment of up to three years in prison and force Smollett to pay for the cost of the inquiry into his report of the Jan. 29 assault. The actor is gay and since 2015 has played singer Jamal Lyon — who is also gay on the show — on Fox’s hit musical drama series Empirewhich follows a black family who run a major music record label.

Smollett alleged that in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, he was walking in downtown Chicago to get food from Subway when two white men wearing masks assaulted him by shouting racist and anti-gay insults and yelling “This is MAGA country!” a reference to President Donald Trump‘s “Make America Great Again” slogan. The actor also claimed the two Trump supporters tried to put a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him. Smollett still reportedly had the rope around him when police came to his apartment. Many Hollywood celebrities and prominent politicians, especially Democrats, expressed sympathy for Smollett on Twitter or in verbal comments following the alleged attack and condemned the bigotry and homophobia Trump has fueled since taking office two years ago.

Soon afterwards, however, Smollett began drawing suspicions from many people who said there appeared to be inconsistencies with his account. Reports quickly surfaced that alleged the actor paid two Nigerian brothers, Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo Osundairo, $3,500 to stage the attack. The Osundairo brothers — one of whom is reportedly Smollett’s personal trainer and who appeared as an extra on Empire — were released after being held for nearly 48 hours. Many news outlets are now saying Smollett staged the assault because he was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire and simply wanted to receive more attention.

Smollett also commented on the alleged assault and responded to claims it was faked as a “hoax” in an emotional interview with Robin Roberts on ABC’s Good Morning America. 

“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 much more,” said Smollett in the interview, during which he also said “I punched his a— back,” referring to one of the two men who attacked him.

In that interview, Smollett also discussed an alleged death threat he received in the form of a letter written with magazine clippings. However, he has been accused of faking that as well.


Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson was visibly infuriated by Smollett’s lie, and said he had taken advantage of the city’s law enforcement officials who could have been helping the victims of other similar hate crimes. Johnson also decried the lack of attention given to victims of gun violence in Chicago.

“Why would anyone — especially an African-American man — use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” he asked at a press conference Thursday morning. “How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?”

Johnson and other local officials went on to call Smollett’s actions a “publicity stunt” and said the actor had dragged Chicago’s “reputation through the mud.”

“I’m offended by what has happened and I’m also angry. I love the city of Chicago and the Chicago police department, warts and all. But this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve,” Johnson said at the news conference.

Trump tweeted at Smollett on Thursday morning:

Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, has reportedly recused herself from the inquiry into Smollett.

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah was one of several notable television personalities to comment on the inconsistencies in Smollett’s account.

According to several reports, Smollett has a previous criminal record that includes suspicion of driving under the influence and charges of false impersonation and driving without a license. He entered an alcohol and education and treatment program.

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