Actor Jussie Smollett is now a suspect in the criminal investigation of an alleged hate-crime he reported last month. Police believe he filed a false police report at the time of the incident.
Chicago police confirmed the explosive development on Wednesday afternoon. He faces charges related to filing a false report with Chicago police, which is a Class 4 felony.
Police have yet to release more details, but a Cook County Grand Jury has been empaneled and is hearing evidence in a Chicago courtroom. No charges have been filed yet.
This class of felony has lower penalties compared to other charges. Those found guilty may face prison time between 1 to 3 three years and face financial penalties up to $25,000.
Lawyers and spokespeople representing the actor were not able to be reached for comment at time of reporting.
Before Smollett's status change in the investigation, the top prosecutor in Chicago recused herself on Tuesday night from any criminal proceedings into the actor’s incident without elaborating on her motivation to step aside on such a high-profile case.
However, as news broke around Smollett's potential felonies, the State’s Attorney Kim Foxx responded to requests for comment by informing The Advocate that her recusal was connected to a meeting with a family member of Smollett earlier in the day. She worried the meeting could impact potential prosecution proceedings.
"Shortly after the incident occurred in late January, State’s Attorney 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,” chief communications officer Tandra Simonton told The Advocate.
“Based on those prior conversations and out of an abundance of caution, last week State’s Attorney Foxx decided to remove herself from the decision making in this matter and delegated it to her First Assistant Joseph Magats, a 28-year veteran prosecutor," she continued.
Earlier this week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service expanded their investigation into hate mail received by Jussie Smollett to include the actor himself. Two federal officials confirmed this most recent change in the investigation scope with ABC News on Tuesday.
The letter first arrived at Fox Studios in Chicago on January 22 before the now well-known reported incident a week later when two men allegedly attacked the actor while yelling homophobic and racist epithets. The letters portrayed a stick-man being shot by a gun with hate language directed at the actor. Substances were found in the envelope but were confirmed to be powdered Tylenol and an unknown protein substance by detectives.
Brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, the two men who were picked up and released after giving local police new evidence into the investigation, have told investigators that Smollett paid them to help orchestrate the incident.
They also stated the motive behind the incident was connected to the letters in question not garnering any attention by local or national media once received, according to sources interviewed by ABC News.
During a police raid of the brother's home, a magazine was recovered as evidence by police, according to inventory sheet reviewed by The Advocate.
Police stated last week after the first round of interviews with the two brothers that they produced evidence that changed the "trajectory" of the entire investigation. While information from the two men has not been publicly corroberated by Chicago police, it is assumed that it did lead to today's proceedings.
This is developing and will be updated as we report...