Fri, Feb 22, 2019 - Page 7 News List

US actor charged with faking racist attack last week

Reuters

US actor Jussie Smollett attends the a gala in New York on April 9 last year.

Photo: AFP

US actor Jussie Smollett was charged with lying to police when he claimed that he was attacked and beaten on the streets of Chicago by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs, police said on Wednesday as they sought his arrest.

Smollett, a 36-year-old black and openly gay actor on the hip-hop TV drama Empire, ignited a firestorm on social media by telling police on Jan. 29 that two apparent supporters of US President Donald Trump struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him.

“Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter.

The New York Times, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, said that Smollett had been indicted by an Illinois grand jury that found probable cause that he had staged the attack.

“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,” Smollett’s attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, said in a written statement. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

Smollett has stood by his account even as police failed to find any evidence of an assault and suspicions grew on social media that it was a hoax.

Last week, Chicago police questioned two Nigerian brothers recognized from surveillance footage near the scene of the supposed attack, but released them two days later, without charge, in light of what investigators said was new evidence.

TV station CBS Chicago on Wednesday released a videotape that it had obtained, showing the two brothers buying a red hat and ski masks from a hardware store days before the alleged attack.

Smollett told police that his assailants were white, that one wore a red hat and that they shouted something about “MAGA country” — an apparent reference to Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” — as they struck him to the ground, the New York Times has reported.

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