Empire star Jussie Smollett arrested after being charged with lying to police over race hate attack

Empire star Jussie Smollett arrested after being charged with lying to police over race hate attackActor Jussie Smollett has been arrested after he was charged with lying to police when he claimed he was attacked and beaten by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs, Chicago police said on Thursday on Twitter. Smollett, a 36-year-old black, openly gay actor on the hip-hop TV drama Empire, ignited a firestorm on social media by telling police on Jan. 29 that two men had struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him. Smollett turned himself in at central booking, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was scheduled to hold a Thursday morning news conference to announce Smollett's arrest and Smollett was expected to appear in court later in the day. The whispers about Smollett started with reports that he had not fully cooperated with police after telling authorities he was attacked. Then detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the beating. Later, two brothers were taken into custody for questioning but were released after two days, with police saying they were no longer suspects. Following three weeks of mounting suspicions, Smollett was charged Wednesday with making a false police report, a charge that could bring up to three years in prison and force the actor, who is openly gay, to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report of a Jan. 29 beating. In less than a month, the 36-year-old changed from being the seemingly sympathetic victim of a hate crime to being accused of fabricating the entire thing. People attend a rally in support of actor Jussie Smollett in the Manhattan borough of New York City Credit: Reuters The felony disorderly conduct charge emerged on the same day detectives and the two brothers testified before a grand jury. Smollett's attorneys met with prosecutors and police, but it was unknown what they discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting. In a statement, attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said 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." The announcement of the charges followed a flurry of activity in recent days, including lengthy police interviews of the brothers, a search of their home and their release after officers cleared them. Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected. But it became increasingly clear that serious questions had arisen about Smollett's account – something police signaled Friday when they announced a "significant shift in the trajectory" of the probe after the brothers were freed. Interview with actor Jussie Smollett on ABC's "Good Morning America" Credit: Getty Smollett, who plays a gay character on the hit Fox television show Empire, said he was attacked Jan. 29 as he was walking home from a downtown Subway sandwich shop. He said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled "This is MAGA country" – an apparent reference to Donald Trump, the US president, and his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" – before fleeing. Earlier Wednesday, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement saying Smollett "continues to be a consummate professional on set" and that his character is not being written off the show. The series is shot in Chicago and follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry. The studio's statement followed reports that Smollett's role was being slashed amid the police investigation. After reviewing hundreds of hours of video, detectives did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question and last week picked up the brothers at O'Hare Airport as they returned from Nigeria. Police questioned the men and searched their apartment. The brothers, who were identified by their attorney as Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett. The day after they were released, police said the men provided information that had "shifted the trajectory of the investigation," and detectives requested another interview with Smollett. Attorney Gloria Schmidt speaks to reporters at the at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago Credit: Reuters Police said one of the men had appeared on Empire, and Smollett's attorneys said one of the men is the actor's personal trainer, whom he hired to help get him physically ready for a music video. The actor released his debut album, "Sum of My Music," last year. Smollett was charged by prosecutors, not the grand jury. The police spokesman said the brothers appeared before the panel to "lock in their testimony." Speaking outside the courthouse where the grand jury met, the brothers' attorney said the two men testified for about two and a half hours. "There was a point where this story needed to be told, and they manned up and they said we're going to correct this," Gloria Schmidt said. She said her clients did not care about a plea deal or immunity. "You don't need immunity when you have the truth," she said. She also said her clients received money from Smollett, but she did not elaborate. Kim Foxx, Chicago's top prosecutor, recused herself from the investigation into the attack reported by "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett  Credit: AP Smollett has been active in LBGTQ issues, and initial reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media, including from Sen. Kamala Harris of California and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Referring to a published account of the attack, President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that "it doesn't get worse, as far as I'm concerned." But several hours after Smollett was declared a suspect and the charges announced, there was little reaction from celebrities online. Former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg said judges rarely throw defendants in prison for making false reports, opting instead to place them on probation, particularly if they have no prior criminal record. Sign up for your essential, twice-daily briefing from The Telegraph with our free Front Page newsletter.



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