Jussie Smollett has been arrested on suspicion of filing a false police report.
Earlier this month, the American actor – who is best known for his role as Jamal Lyon on Empire – alleged that he was a victim of a homophobic attack. He said two attackers placed a noose around his neck, began to punch him and poured an unknown substance over him.
He also claimed they yelled, “This is MAGA country,” referring to the Make America Great Again acronym often used by President Trump.
Speaking to Essence, Smollett said: “Let me start by saying that I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
Speaking about the attack itself, Smollett said: “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.
“As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process.”
He finished by saying: “Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me. With Love, respect & honor…Jussie.”
However, new evidence suggested that Smollett paid the two Nigerian brothers who under investigation to orchestrate the attack. It was later revealed that one of the brothers is his personal trainer, while both of them have worked as extras on Empire.
In the early honours of Thursday morning (21 February) he was arrested under suspicion of filing a false police report, and if convicted, he will face up to three years in prison.
Smollett has continuously denied reports that he played a role in the attack.
His lawyers said in a statement: “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.”
Later, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary on Empire and wanted to promote his career.
Johnson told reporters that Smollett took “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
He added: “Bogus police reports cause real harm. I am offended by what’s happened and I’m also angry. As far as we can tell, the scratching and bruising that you saw on his [Smollett’s] face were most likely self-inflicted.”
Smollett hasn’t made any additional statements since being taken in for questioning.