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Jussie Smollett named as suspect in criminal investigation for filing a false police report

Detectives were this evening presenting evidence before a Grand Jury in Chicago, a police spokesperson said.

Empire Actor Jussie Smollett.
Empire Actor Jussie Smollett.
Image: PA Images

EMPIRE ACTOR JUSSIE Smollett has been named as a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a false police report, Chicago Police have confirmed.

Detectives were this evening presenting evidence before a Grand Jury in Chicago, a police spokesperson said. 

Smollett had previously said that he had been the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in downtown Chicago late last month.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said earlier that two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects in the attack were also to testify before the grand jury.

Smollett’s lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, met with prosecutors and police earlier this afternoon.

It’s unknown what was discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting. The lawyers didn’t reply to requests seeking comment.

Smollett, who is black and gay and plays Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show Empire, said he was attacked by two masked men at around 2am on 29 January as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago.

He said they beat him, made racist and homophobic comments, and yelled “This is MAGA country” – an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” – before looping a rope around his neck and fleeing.

The supposed attack prompted celebrities and politicians to come out in solidarity with Smollett, including Democratic candidates Senator Kamala Harris and Cory Booker who both compared it to a modern-day lynching.

Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement earlier today saying Smollett “continues to be a consummate professional on set” and that his character isn’t being written off the show.

The statement followed reports that Smollett’s role was being slashed amid the police investigation into the reported attack.

Investigators went through hundreds of hours of private and public surveillance video from the area where Smollett said he was attacked but couldn’t find footage of the beating.

They did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question.

Last week, police picked up the two brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria and questioned them about the attack.

They also searched the men’s apartment.


The men, who were identified to multiple media outlets by their lawyer as Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett before being released Friday.

Police spokesperson Guglielmi said last week that media reports about the attack being a hoax were unconfirmed by case detectives, but on Saturday he said the men provided information that had “shifted the trajectory of the investigation”.

He also said detectives had requested another interview with Smollett.

The Osundairos’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, hadn’t responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press. 

Smollett’s lawyers have said the actor was angered and “victimised” by reports that he may have played a role in staging the attack.

“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” Pugh and Henderson said in a statement Saturday.

Anne Kavanagh, a spokeswoman for Smollett’s lawyers, said they would “keep an active dialogue with Chicago police on his behalf”.

She didn’t respond to a request for comment yesterday. 

Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the investigation yesterday, according to a one-sentence statement issued by a spokesperson.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” the spokesperson said.

She didn’t elaborate as to how Foxx was familiar with anyone in the case and she said Foxx would have no further comment.

Foxx’s first assistant, Joe Magats, will oversee the case, the office said.

With reporting from Rónán Duffy and Associated Press

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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