An Illinois grand jury on Wednesday (21 February) charged Empire actor Jussie Smollett with disorderly contact a nearly a month after he claimed he was the victim of a hate crime.
It found ‘probable cause’ that he staged the attack in Chicago last month, according to the New York Times.
Smollett in January was hospitalized on January 29. He reported men in MAGA hats attacked him and put a noose around his neck.
Smollett, his lawyers, his employer, Fox, and Chicago police initially defended the actor against reports he had orchestrated the attack.
But on Wednesday, Chicago police said they were officially investigating Smollett for filing a false police report.
Two brothers at the heart of the case, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who were initially suspects but were then found to know Smollett personally, appeared as witnesses to the grand jury.
He will reportedly face court on Thursday.
The New York Times reports that the grand jury was pursuing the crime as a felony. Smollett faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
How did we get here?
When the actor gave his first interview following the alleged attack, he hit back at early skepticism surrounding the truth of his story.
‘It became a thing of like, “Oh. It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth,”‘ he said.
Chicago police and Smollett’s employer, Fox, which airs Empire, also both defended Smollett as a victim
Allegations of Smollett faking the attack, or involved in staging it, began gaining traction when Chicago police arrested two brothers.
Police presented the brothers with evidence of where they purchased the rope used as a noose on Smollett. Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo then claimed Smollett paid them to help orchestrate the attack.
At first, reports said Smollett did this because studio was writing him off Empire. Then, a new report stated Smollett’s motivation stemmed from Fox not taking a threatening letter addressed to him and sent to the studio seriously enough.
The FBI, however, began investigating whether or not Smollett was involved in sending the letter too.
Now, police are looking at Smollett as a suspect in their continued investigation.