By: Elisha Fieldstadt and Andrew Blankstein of NBC
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was charged Wednesday with a felony for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a hate-crime attack in Chicago, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney office.
Smollett is charged with felony disorderly conduct for the allegedly false report he filed with Chicago police on Jan. 29, in which he claimed he was assaulted by two masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs.
The actor, 36, who is black and gay, also said his attackers poured what he believed was bleach over him and put a noose around his neck.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives will contact Smollett’s legal team “to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest.” He could face probation or up to three years in prison if convicted, a Cook County State’s Attorney office spokeswoman told NBC Chicago.
The actor is due in court for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The announcement of charges on Wednesday night came after Smollett’s attorneys talked with prosecutors in the morning, according to police.
In a statement released after Smollett was charged, his attorneys said he “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,” the statement from attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson said.
Meanwhile, the top prosecutor in the Chicago area, Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, has recused herself from the case.
The state’s attorney stepped away from the matter because she had “had conversations with a family member of Jussie Smollett about the incident and their concerns, and facilitated a connection to the Chicago Police Department,” a spokesperson for the office said.
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