The Jussie Smollett case will be headed to a grand jury, though it is not yet clear just who could be facing charges for the alleged hoax.
As the New York Post’s Page Six noted, a Chicago grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the controversial attack that has since been labeled an alleged hoax concocted by the actor and his friends. The panel is expected to hear the case starting in the coming week, though it was not clear when any indictments may be issued.
The Empire actor claimed in January that he was attacked late at night while walking on a Chicago street by two masked men who beat him and placed a noose around his neck. Smollett claimed that the men yelled, “This is MAGA country,” in reference to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, then poured a chemical on him.
But doubts soon began to rise around the report, with police tracking down two men seen on surveillance video near Smollett and later identifying them as friends of the actor. As Deadline reported, Chicago police announced this weekend that the investigation had shifted and are now looking at Smollett as a suspect.
“The new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident,” a law enforcement source told the news outlet.
TMZ also reported that Smollett paid a pair of Nigerian brothers $3,500 to attack him, and reports indicated that they rehearsed the attack beforehand. Smollett himself could now be facing charges. In a separate story, law enforcement sources told TMZ that the case was going before a grand jury, though the source was not able to say who was the target of the investigation.
Police are reportedly investigating whether a threatening letter sent to the actor was also part of the hoax. As police were searching the homes of the two brothers who allegedly helped plan the attack, they found magazine pages that had letters cut out, which could have been used to create the threatening letter that used racial and homophobic slurs toward the actor.
TMZ reported that police suspicions grew around the attack, with officers noting that it seemed odd that a Trump supporter would be in that part of Chicago — and would refer to it as “MAGA country.”
Smollett has continued to deny any allegations that the attack was a hoax or that he participated in its planning.