Chicago authorities have charged Empire actor Jussie Smollett with filing a false police report after alleging he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. Police had previously said the 36-year-old actor was being considered as a suspect in the case and have now confirmed charges have been brought by Cook County State's Attorney's Office for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives are now looking to arrest Mr. Smollett.
Mr. Smollett had alleged he had been attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago on January 29, telling police his attackers had shouted racist and homophobic abuse and tied a noose around his neck. Mr. Smollett, who is black and came out as gay in 2015, made a tearful appearance on Good Morning America this month and said he had been "forever changed" by the alleged attack, saying, "I will never be the man who this didn't happen to.” Continuing, he added, "I am forever changed and I don't subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, but I do subscribe to the idea that we have the right and responsibility to make something meaningful out of the things that happen to us, good and bad." Asked what message he wanted to send by speaking about the attack, he replied, "I want young people, young members of the LGTBQ community, young black children, to know how strong they are, to know the power they hold in their little pinky."
Mr. Smollett has starred in the television drama Empire since 2015 as the character Jamal, the gay son of a music mogul, played by Terrence Howard. Executive producers at Fox said Mr. Smollett’s character Jamal will not appear in the final two episodes. In a statement, Fox said, "The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show, and to avoid further disruption on set we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season."
The charges against Mr. Smollett emerged on the same day that detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects testified before a grand jury. The announcement that charges had been made followed weeks of speculation around the investigation and lengthy interviews of the brothers by authorities, a search of their home and their release after police cleared them. Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected. On Friday, police announced a "significant shift in the trajectory" of the probe after the brothers were freed. If found guilty of the Class 4 felony, Mr. Smollett faces a prison sentence of between one to three years or receive probation.