Jussie Smollett (Pic: Dominick D)
There are reports that Jussie Smollett is facing career ruin and a grand jury investigation if he is unable to convince police that he was indeed attacked.
According to TMZ, Smollett has been given one more opportunity to speak to the police about the alleged hate crime. If he is unable or unwilling to offer new evidence for his claims, the matter may be sent to a grand jury.
A grand jury would then investigate potential criminal conduct and determine whether criminal charges should be brought against him for possibly fabricating the assault.
Various news media in the US have reported that two brothers, Abimbola ‘Abel’ and Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, have told police that Smollett paid them to orchestrate an assault on him. The men, who know Smollett well, have also apparently claimed that a threatening letter that was earlier sent to the actor had been fabricated.
It’s still not clear what would have motivated Smollett to have done this and there is no official confirmation from police that the openly gay star is in fact a suspect in his own attack.
If he did indeed falsify the incident and police report, he could face up to three years in jail as well as paying compensation to the Chicago Police Department for the cost of its investigation. The star’s career as an actor and musician and reputation as an activist for the LGBTQ and African American communities would be in shreds.
“It’s a very high-profile case,” Andrew Weisberg, a former prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, told Variety. “Prosecutors tend to be tougher because everybody’s watching. … I think they may come down hard, in terms of not reducing it to a misdemeanor.”
There are also reports that the producers of Empire, in which Smollett stars, have drastically cut down filming scenes featuring the actor in the wake of the allegations against him.
It’s now come to light that in 2007, Smollett got into trouble with the law in California for suspicion of driving under the influence. He is said to have signed a false name on a promise to appear in court. He pleaded guilty to a charge of giving false information and driving under the influence and without a valid license. Smollett was ordered to complete an alcohol education treatment program
On January 29, Smollett, 36, was allegedly attacked in the streets of Chicago at around 2am. He claims that two men wearing ski masks shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him. He was beaten in the face and had an unknown substance, possibly bleach, thrown onto him. The men also put a rope around his neck before fleeing the scene. Smollett was briefly hospitalised for minor injuries.
Police later arrested and then released the Osundairo brothers who have reportedly cooperated with the authorities. Questions have been asked about some inconsistencies in Smollett’s account of the attack and his delay in providing police with complete phone records.
Smollett and his lawyers have denied the growing claims that he fabricated the attack. They said in a statement that, “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”