‘Empire’ Actor Jussie Smollett Arrested on Charges of Filing False Police Report

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
February 21, 2019 Updated: February 21, 2019

Chicago police have announced that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is under arrest on charges of making a false police report when he claimed he was attacked by two men hurling racist and homophobic slurs.

Chicago Police Department (CPD) spokesman Anthony Guglielmi posted on Twitter on Feb. 21 that the actor “is under arrest and in the custody of detectives.”

Guglielmi told The Associated Press that Smollett turned himself in early Thursday, Feb. 21, at central booking.

Guglielmi said in a tweet that an announcement would be made at a 9 a.m. press conference to “brief reporters on the investigation prior to the defendant’s appearance in court.”

A CNN report cited prosecutors as saying that a bail hearing was expected for 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Criminal Charges Approved

Earlier Guglielmi indicated Smollett had been named a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a fake police report, and that criminal charges had been approved by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office (SAO).

Guglielmi noted that after charges had been approved by the SAO, detectives intended to make contact with Smollett’s legal team “to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest.”

Filing a false police report is a class 4 felony that under Illinois sentencing law carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

Actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation
Actor and singer Jussie Smollett at the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation after party at Wollman Rink in Central Park in New York, on May 14, 2018. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

The 36-year-old actor also faces the prospect of being forced to cover the costs of the investigation into his report of the alleged Jan. 29 incident, in which Smollett also claimed he had been physically assaulted and that his attackers had looped a rope around his neck.

Smollett also claimed that during the attack, the men dumped bleach on him and said that Chicago was “MAGA country,” which is a reference to Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again.”

Paid to Stage Attack?

The two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, were arrested by the police at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after they returned from Nigeria only to be released without charges on Feb. 15. A police spokesman said the two are no longer considered suspects and that investigators have new evidence to consider as a result of questioning them.

According to reports, the Osundairo brothers told police that they were paid to stage the attack. They reportedly told detectives Smollett paid them $3,500 before they left for Nigeria on the day the attack was reported.

They were promised an additional $500 upon their return to the United States, sources told CBS Chicago.

Additionally, Smollett allegedly rehearsed the attack with the brothers before it was staged on Jan. 29. He also gave the brothers money to buy the rope, which was purchased from the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store on Jan. 25, CBS reported. The hat was bought at a beauty supply store.

CBS reporter Charlie De Mar said in a tweet that he had succeeded in tracking down surveillance footage of the Osundario brothers buying supplies ahead of the “attack.'”

“Red hat and ski mask among the items,” De Mar noted in a follow-up tweet.

Not Enough Attention

Two federal official sources briefed on the investigation told ABC News that the brothers alleged that Smollett staged the attack on himself because he was upset that a threatening letter he received a week before had not generated enough attention. The officials added that the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are still investigating that allegation but have not confirmed that it happened.

The Osundairo brothers were set to have their testimony officially documented before a grand jury but Smollett’s legal team presented information to prosecutors to delay the brother’s testimony, sources told Fox News.

jussie smollett 1
This image taken from surveillance video shows two people of interest in an attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walking along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, on Jan. 29, 2019. (Courtesy of Chicago Police Department via AP)

“The two brothers involved in this incident were at a Chicago courthouse meeting with detectives and prosecutors. They did not get seated before a grand jury,” the CPD said in a statement on Feb. 19.

Previously, Smollett’s lawyers said late on Feb. 16 that the actor felt “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault, adding that, “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”

Smollett’s attorneys released a statement cited by CNN: “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. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”


Meanwhile, many people have reacted to the case including Donald Trump Jr., President Trump’s son, who noted that many people who initially issued statements on the attack quietly deleted them, including presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

In a Twitter post, he said: “It appears that Jussie Smollett tried to manufacture a hate crime to make Trump supporters look bad and most of the media not only uncritically accepted his lies as facts for weeks but attacked those who questioned the validity of his false story.”

In his recent comments, Trump Jr. wrote, “Has anyone set the over-under on how long it will take Jussie Smollett and his Hollywood/Media enablers to find a way to blame “America” and “society” for his disreputable actions? We all know it’s only a matter of time.”

Staff reporters Janita Kan and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'