Actor arrested over false attack report

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47319044

Mr Smollett turned himself into police on ThursdayImage copyright
CBS

Image caption

Mr Smollett turned himself into police on Thursday

US actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested in Chicago after being charged with filing a false police report.

The Empire star had said he was subjected to a homophobic and racist physical attack by two men in January.

Police suspect the 36-year-old actor paid two Nigerian brothers to stage the attack. They are both co-operating with the investigation, US media report.

He is due to appear in court later on Thursday. His lawyers earlier said they would “mount an aggressive defence”.

What do police say?

Suspicion over the actor’s claim started to grow after police said they could not find any video footage of the alleged incident from surveillance cameras. There were also no witnesses.

But investigators managed to track two men who appeared on video footage near where the actor said he had been attacked.

The men – Ola and Abel Osundairo – had left the US following the alleged attack and were held for nearly 48 hours after they returned last week.

Image copyright
Chicago Police

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CCTV image released earlier by Chicago police

They were released without charges after providing information that “shifted the trajectory of the investigation”, police said. One of the brothers is Mr Smollett’s personal trainer and both have worked as extras on Empire.

A lawyer for the brothers, Gloria Schmidt, said they had chosen to testify because “there was a point where this story needed to be told”. She added: “They manned up and said: ‘You know what? We’re going to correct this’.”

On Wednesday, CBS Chicago obtained footage which appeared to show two people buying materials, including ski masks, that had allegedly been worn by the actor’s attackers.

What happens now?

Mr Smollett turned himself in early on Thursday and is in custody of Chicago police, spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

He faces felony charges for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.

The actor is being temporarily held at the Cook County Jail and has been separated from other prisoners, which is common of notable inmates, Chicago media report.

If found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison and may also be forced to reimburse police for the cost of their three week-long investigation.

Following the charges, the actor’s legal team released a statement 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.”

What does Smollett say happened?

The actor, who is gay, said he had gone out to buy food late at night in downtown Chicago when two white men hurled racial and homophobic insults at him.

They allegedly punched the actor, poured a chemical substance over him and put a rope around his neck.

Mr Smollett also claimed the men had told him “this is Maga country”, apparently referring to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

The actor said he had been “forever changed” by the alleged incident. An outpouring of support followed, including from Oscar winner Viola Davis and supermodel Naomi Campbell.