Jussie Smollett could face prison time if it turns out he lied about being the victim of a recent alleged attack.
On January 29, the “Empire” actor came forward saying that he was beaten up by two men who were using racial and homophobic slurs against him. He also said the men poured bleach on him, punched him, and put a rope around his neck. Police were unable to find images of the attack after looking through surveillance cameras in the area. Now, authorities are investigating the possibility that the attack was staged.
If convicted, Smollet could face a prison sentence of up to three years. Or, he could also be sentenced to probation.
Smollett is set to appear in court for a bond hearing on Thursday afternoon, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
In a statement, Smollet’s attorneys are reported by Variety as saying, “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.”
Since news of the possible staging of the attack surfaced, police have uncovered other claims about Smollett that threaten his credibility. For example, in 2007, Smollett is reported to have posed as his brother after being stopped for a suspected DUI. According to USA Today, he signed his brother’s name, Jake, on the court summons. He was subsequently sentenced to three years probation.
Investigators are also looking into whether or not Smollett had any part in the creation of a threatening letter that was sent to the “Empire” set one week before the alleged assault. In an interview last week with Good Morning America, Smollett said that that he believed the letter was linked to the assault he reports to have been a victim of. According to Variety, “Should that letter turn out to be fake, federal prosecutors could also pursue a mail fraud charge, legal experts say.”
Speaking to the outlet on Wednesday, Andrew Weisberg, a former prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, said, “It’s a very high-profile case… 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.”
Steve Greenberg, a Chicago defense attorney, however, said that he does not believe Smollett will serve jail time. Greenberg told Variety, “They’re not going to ruin a guy’s life over this… People make false reports all the time to the police. They get in a DUI, they call police and say, ‘My car was stolen.’ Ninety percent of the time, even if they’re charged with a felony, those people end up pleading to a misdemeanor.”
On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that Smollett’s scenes from upcoming episodes of Empire have been “drastically” cut in light of recent developments in the case.
Please note, this post will be updated with more information as it becomes available.