Update, 8:00P.M: The Chicago Tribune reports that Smollett is now facing felony charges of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about the attack. Reporter Megan Crepeau tweeted from the courthouse that Smollett is expected to appear in bond court tomorrow.
Original Story: A spokesperson for the Chicago Police department said on Wednesday that actor Jussie Smollett is now officially the suspect of a criminal investigation for filing a false police report. Early in the morning on Jan. 29, the Empire star said he had been attacked by two men who wrapped a rope around his neck and yelled “This is MAGA Country!” as well as racist and homophobic slurs. By mid-February, however, rumors were circulating that Smollett had staged the attack, and on the 17th, news broke that the police investigation had refocused on that possibility, after two suspects told the police Smollett had paid them to attack him. Chicago Police Department chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi tweeted Wednesday that detectives were seeking an indictment from a grand jury at that very moment, but Deadline reports that Smollett’s lawyers got the grand jury session postponed at the last minute:
Also on Wednesday, Chicago CBS affiliate CBS2 reporter Charlie De Mar tracked down store surveillance footage showing the two former suspects in the attack who told police Smollett had paid them, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, buying equipment used in the attack.
It’s still unclear what motive Smollett could have had to stage the attack; although there was early speculation that he was trying to prevent being written off Empire, both the show’s writing staff and show creator Danny Strong have consistently denied this was ever on the table. What does seem to be increasingly clear is that, as Trevor Noah opined on The Daily Show last night, it looks like Smollett was counting on confirmation bias to put his story across. When asked by ABC News about doubts others had about his story, he immediately went big, claiming it was a symptom of systemic racism:
It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more—a lot more. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.
In the same interview, Smollett said that he felt that, one way or another, the consequences of the attack would be with him for the rest of his life:
I will never be the man that this did not happen to. I am forever changed. And I don’t subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, but I do subscribe to the idea that we have the right and the responsibility to make something meaningful out of the things that happen to us, good and bad.
Whoever is telling the truth, and however the situation evolves from here, it seems clear Smollett is going to have many opportunities to make something meaningful in the days and weeks to come.