Opinion

If Jussie Smollett’s Attack was a Hoax, He Could Be In Some Serious Legal Trouble

Woah, this story is getting crazier by the minute. Reports are coming in that Empire actor Jussie Smollet — and his two reported attackers — may have staged the homophobic MAGA-attack that has been making headlines.

In early February, Smollett spoke out about a January 2019 attack. The Empire star reported that he had been assaulted by two men in Chicago while he walked back from the subway at 2AM; according to Smollett, his assailants shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured some kind of chemical on him, placed a noose around his neck, all while yelling “this is MAGA country.” He fought them off, went home, and then eventually followed up with police and went to the hospital, where he promptly took a selfie showing some minor facial injuries.

On Thursday, news broke that police were investigating “persons of interest,” but by Thursday evening, they were identified as two men of Nigerian descent who had coincidentally worked as extras on Empire. Also, coincidentally, those two men skipped town for Nigeria the day of the attack. Perhaps picking up on all those coincidences, authorities are now seriously considering the possibility that Smollett and the two men staged the entire “attack,” according to local Chicago media outlets.

If Smollett did perpetrate a hoax on the Chicago police (not to mention much of the general public), he could be facing some major legal drama that isn’t fictional. In Illinois, filing a false police report is a class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison, and fines up to $25,000. If Smollett filed his report knowing that no real offense had been committed against him, he could very well wind up in prison. Prosecutors would likely charge him with violation of 720 ILCS 5/26-1(4)), and the case could amount to a rather easy conviction.

Of course, proving what a person knew or did not know can sometimes be difficult without specific corroborative evidence about what that person was thinking.  However, in Smollett’s case, there’s some cause to believe that such evidence might exist;- at a minimum, his behavior seems extremely odd.  Smollett failed to show up for an interview with police detectives today, and was slow to comply with police requests for his phone records; later, when he did turn over phone records, they were “limited and heavily redacted.” Not a good look for someone who was so recently lamenting the lack of public support to GMA’s Robin Roberts.

[Screengrab via ABC News]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. She is a frequent media contributor, and is Of Counsel to Smedley & Lis, in Woodbury, New Jersey. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos

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