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Felony Charges Filed Against Empire Star Jussie Smollett

The state’s attorney’s office approved disorderly conduct charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, said spokesman Robert Foley.  The charge is a Class 4 felony. Smollett is expected to appear in bond court Thursday, Foley said.

Chicago police on Wednesday had officially classified Smollett as a suspect in a criminal investigation for allegedly filing a false police report.

Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives were presenting evidence to a grand jury Wednesday afternoon to show that Smollett made the false report.

Smollett had previously told police that he was walking in the 300 block of East North Water Street about 2 a.m. Jan. 29 when two men walked up to him, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him in the face, poured a substance — possibly bleach — on him and put a “thin, light rope” around his neck.

He claimed his attackers also yelled “This is MAGA country” — an acronym for President Donald Trump’s signature phrase “Make America Great Again.” The incident was initially investigated as a hate crime.

TIMELINE: Jussie Smollett’s reported attack and its investigation

Smollett had not been charged with any crime as of late Wednesday afternoon, though a police source said they could be filed within the next 24 hours.

The latest development in the already dizzying case came just hours after Smollett’s lawyers met with police and Cook County prosecutors. He has retained local attorneys Vic Henderson, Todd Pugh and Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Geragos, whose clients have included Michael Jackson and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

A representative for Smollett’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The actor has publicly expressed outrage at speculation that he may have set up the attack, including a lengthy interview with Good Morning America host Robin Roberts during which he called out “haters” who doubted his account of what happened. Smollett has acknowledged that one of the two men interviewed by police had served as his personal trainer.

The actor has publicly expressed outrage at speculation that he may have set up the attack, including a lengthy interview with Good Morning America host Robin Roberts during which he called out “haters” who doubted his account of what happened. Smollett has acknowledged that one of the two men interviewed by police had served as his personal trainer.

“Who the f— would make something like this up?” Smollett told Roberts.

If the attack was faked, Smollett likely could face a low-level felony charge for disorderly conduct for making a bogus call to 911, a charge veteran Chicago defense attorney Joseph “The Shark” Lopez said he seldom sees charged in low-profile cases, say, where someone crashes their car and then reports it was stolen.

The offense carries a sentence of one to three years, with probation possible or a first offense, though a defendant could be ordered to pay restitution for wasted police resources — which would appear to be ample as the hate crime investigation has gone on for several weeks.

Smollett said he was reluctant to call police immediately after the attack because of the attention it would receive. His manager, who said he was on the phone with the actor at the time of the assault, called authorities 40 minutes later. Smollett turned over redacted records from his cellphone to police, who said the records provided were “insufficient for a criminal investigation.”

The news that Smollett was now a criminal suspect capped a tumultuous 24 hours in a case that had already seen plenty of twists.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation Tuesday night, citing “potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.”

One of her aides elaborated on the decision Wednesday, saying the recusal was prompted after that the decision was made after “Foxx had conversations with a family member of Jussie Smollett about the incident and their concerns, and facilitated a connection to the Chicago Police Department who were investigating the incident.”

It remained unclear what prompted Foxx to get personally involved in the case and when those conversations happened.

As criticism of his account was mounting Tuesday, two of Smollett’s siblings took to Instagram to defend their brother.

The two shared a photo of Malcolm X next to a tweaked quote of his in which he derided the news media.

“This is the media, an irresponsible media,” the photo reads. “It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal.”

Smollett is now the third person to be considered a suspect in the case.

Last week, two brothers — at least one of whom knew Smollett from working on “Empire” — were arrested and questioned by police for two days. Their North Side home was also raided and police recovered personal effects, including cell phones, a source said.

After questioning, the two were released without charges. Guglielmi said information gleaned from the interview “has, in fact, shifted the trajectory of the investigation.”

The two brothers met with police and prosecutors Tuesday and Wednesday, according to police.

Smollett was deluged with support after the news of his reported attack first broke.

Social media was flooded with well-wishes for the actor, who is black and openly gay.

Even before he formally considered a criminal suspect, though, several politicians who initially rushed to his defense had softened their stances.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., whose district covers the South Side, wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking that a hate crime investigation be opened.

“This is a hate crime plain and simple and I will not stand by while evil acts are inflicted on any citizen, especially not in my hometown,” Rush said at the time.

On Tuesday, Rush’s office issued a statement that was far less definitive.

“Congressman Rush is aware of the recent reports citing law enforcement sources,” Rush’s spokesman, Ryan Johnson, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “While it is clear that this case is still developing he continues to believe that any allegation of a crime warrants a thorough investigation, regardless of the outcome. Mr. Rush will have no further comment until the investigation has concluded and the facts are definitive.”

The FBI is already investigating a separate incident involving Smollett.

On Jan. 22, a letter with “threatening language” was sent to the Fox and “Empire” offices. The letter was laced with some type of white, powdery substance, according to Guglielmi.

A celebrity website, GrapeJuice.net, published a picture of the letter with the words, “You will die black f–,” written in letters apparently cut from magazines.