The Empire star who claimed in January that he had been subject to a hate crime is now in police custody. Early on Thursday morning, Chicago police arrested Jussie Smollett for allegedly filing a false police report, weeks after Smollett claimed that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
Smollett was charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report on Wednesday in Cook County, and he is now in the custody of the Chicago Police Department.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. 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," Smollett's lawyers said in a statement to CBS Chicago after receiving news of the charges. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
In late January, reports emerged that Smollett had been assaulted by two white men who allegedly shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, poured a chemical substance on his face, and at one point put a noose around his neck. The entertainment and LGBTQ communities rallied around Smollett on Twitter and elsewhere.
Later it came out that the police who were investigating the incident as a "possible hate crime" had not been able to find video of the attack from the surveillance cameras where Smollett said it took place, as CNN reported. The police then claimed that Smollett had paid two men to carry out a false attack, according to CNN.
Chicago police had previously arrested the brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, but released them after two days with their agreement to cooperate with the investigation, according to NBC News. They were previously known to Smollett, BBC, reported; one was his personal trainer, and both had worked on Empire as extras. CBS also got video of the Osundairo brothers buying various props before the alleged attack took place. According to CBS, sources claimed the men were paid $3,500 to orchestrate the attack on Smollett.
As doubt began to spread about the veracity of Smollett's report, the Empire actor stood his ground. In a Feb. 13 interview with ABC's Good Morning America, he said that he was "pissed off" about the attack and also about people doubting his story.
"It feels like if I had said [the attacker] was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more, and that says a lot about the place we are in our country right now," Smollett told Good Morning America.
On top of the arrest, Smollett has now received a lot of criticism from LGBTQ advocates for allegedly orchestrating a false hate crime against himself. As gay activist and sex columnist Dan Savage claimed in a column from 2015 that he reposted on Monday, false hate crimes generate the same sense of fear among the falsely-targeted community that real hate crimes do — and thus, he said, are hate crimes themselves.