by Brian Hayes
Empire actor Jussie Smollett is now a “suspect in a criminal investigation” for allegedly “filing a false police report,” a Chicago Police Department official said Wednesday.
Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury. pic.twitter.com/FhDcbBKsuU— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 20, 2019
“Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury,” police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said.
The Illinois charge alone carries a sentence of 1-3 years in prison. As 24News reported earlier, if Smollett is also hit with Federal charges for mailing a terroristic threat, that total could be closer to 10 years.
And the announcement comes as new evidence is pouring in to prosecutors, despite Smollett’s refusal to cooperate.
ABC 7 reported that authorities issued subpoenas to obtain financial and other records from Smollett, who police have sought to re-question since interviewing two men said to have been involved in an alleged staged attack on the actor-singer in Chicago on January 29th.
And perhaps most damning, as the nation turns on their nightly news programs, is the video of the co-conspirators Smollett allegedly hired to commit his elaborate hoax, buying ski masks and MAGA-style hats one day prior to the staged assault.
CBS Chicago obtained the video of the store’s surveillance footage, which appears to show Abel and Ola Osundairo bringing masks and a red hat to the counter for the cashier to ring up.
Smollett told the Chicago Police Department that his assailants wore masks as they hurled racist and anti-gay slurs at him as he walked home from a sandwich shop on January 29. Further, he told police that his White attackers looped a think rope around his neck and shouted “This is MAGA country!” before darting from the scene.
The video’s emergence comes after CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reported that at least one of the brothers purchased the rope at Craft Beaver hardware store the weekend of January 25th. The rope was picked up at the direction of Smollett, who paid $3,500 and promised an additional $500 later.
As the walls of justice are closing in on him, Smollett and his team remained defiant, angry and aggressive, with a new celebrity attorney being hired. And remarkably, Fox TV is standing by their Empire star to the bitter end.
In a statement Wednesday, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment praised Smollett as a “consummate professional on set” and said his character would remain a regular on the series.
Fox 32 Chicago reporter Rafer Weigel tweeted Wednesday that Smollett hired high-powered attorney Mark Geragos and that the actor’s indictment may come in “a matter of hours. Not days.”
Geragos recently represented former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his lawsuit against the football league.
Not only is Smollett said to have staged his own attack, but may also be behind a threatening letter sent to himself on the set of Empire. WBBM Channel 2 reported on Tuesday that the he “orchestrated” the assault after the letter failed to evoke a larger reaction from the public.
As 24News reported, The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating whether Smollett played a role in the letter’s January 22 delivery. The letter, which possessed powered aspirin and the phrase “Die black fag,” is undergoing analysis at an FBI crime lab, ABC News reported.