TV

Chicago police charge Smollett with filing false report of assault

US police on Wednesday charged TV actor Jussie Smollett with lying to authorities about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on the streets of Chicago.

The gay and black cast member of the Fox drama series Empire is facing felony criminal charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report, which carries a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison.

He claimed that on Jan 29, two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago while yelling racist and homophobic slurs.

But over the following weeks, the 36-year-old went from victim to suspect.

Smollett's attorneys promised to conduct their own investigation and mount "an aggressive defence".

They 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."

Detectives grew suspicious of Smollett's account after interrogating the two men believed to be the alleged assailants, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who reportedly revealed that they were hired by Smollett to stage the incident.

Ms Gloria Schmidt, the brothers' attorney, told reporters Wednesday that the men testified under oath about what they knew without a plea agreement and did not expect to be charged with a crime.

"They are not guilty of anything," she said.

"I think Jussie Smollett should come clean, because the truth will set him free."

According to Variety, Fox is considering removing Smollett from production on Empire.

Sources close to the production said producers are weighing whether to suspend him after he was charged. - AFP

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