"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett had a noose-like rope tied around his neck when he told police officers about an alleged attack in Chicago by men wearing ski masks, shouting racial and homophobic slurs, and claiming "This is MAGA country." But over the last three weeks, those claims have crumbled under police and media scrutiny.
Today, Smollett has been arrested and charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, allegedly because he was "dissatisfied with his salary" on the show.
From Victim to Criminal
According to reports, an exhaustive criminal investigation led police to two men suspected in the attack. Only it turns out Smollett paid two men $3,500 to help him stage the assault. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," adding that police even have a check Smollett used to pay the men.
Smollett's attorneys maintain he had no role in the attack, and he is expected to appear in court for a bond hearing later today. Disorderly conduct can include a wide range of behaviors, and under Illinois criminal statutes, a person commits disorderly conduct when he or she:
Transmits or causes to be transmitted in any manner to any peace officer, public officer or public employee a report to the effect that an offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed, knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for believing that the offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed.
False reporting under the statute is a class 4 felony, meaning that Smollett could be facing up to three years in prison.
Hate Crimes and Hoaxes
The consequences for filing a false police report can vary depending on where you live, and while it's never a good idea to lie to cops, lying to the FBI can get you into even more trouble. According to initial reports of Smollett's suspected attack, several FBI agents were assisting Chicago police in the investigation, although it is unclear whether Smollett will face any federal charges.
While falsely reporting a crime, especially of such an inflammatory nature, is unfortunate, it is also exceedingly rare. An estimated 21,000 hate crimes were committed in the U.S. over the past three years, while only 50 reported hate crimes turned out to be hoaxes. In addition, bullying of students of color has increased since 2016, and the Anti-Defamation League reports that every extremist murder in the U.S. last year was linked to right-wing and white supremacist hate groups.