Jussie Smollett has been arrested after just a few hours on the run. Chicago Police tweeted early Thursday that the Empire actor was taken into custody without incident.
Earlier Wednesday, Chicago police officially classified Smollett, 36, as a suspect in a criminal investigation for paying two men to help him stage a racial, homophobic attack in Chicago on Jan. 29.
The men, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo told investigators Smollett was upset because a threatening letter he sent to himself didn’t get the reaction he expected.
Smollett was noticeably missing from the Empire set late Wednesday when actress Taraji P. Henson (pictured) and the Empire crew arrived to begin filming an episode after their third lead star was arrested. Taraji looked exhausted and solemn as she prepared to shoot her scene.
Smollett’s attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, released a statement late Wednesday, while their client was still on the run.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount and aggressive defense.”
Variety reports exclusively that Empire producers are considering suspending actor Jussie Smollett after he was charged on Wednesday in Chicago with a Class 4 felony for filing a false police report.
Producers are considering whether to suspend the troubled actor whose scenes were drastically cut from the remaining 9 episodes of the 2nd half of season 5.
A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment issued statements supporting the actor and denying he was being written out of the series.
According to ABC News, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. CT on Thursday.
A Cook County grand jury heard testimony from Abel Osundairo, 27, and his brother Ola Osundairo, 25, on Wednesday. Their lawyer Gloria Schmidt said the brothers testified before the grand jury for 2.5 hours. She said they were not offered immunity in exchange for their testimonies.
The brothers were arrested last Wednesday and released 2 days later without charges. They told police Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack as Trump supporters, then leave the country. They were promised an additional $500 when they returned from Nigeria.
In a joint statement issued to CNN affiliate WBBM, the brothers said: “We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Smollett sent a threatening “anthrax” letter to himself at Fox TV’s Chicago studio.
The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service responded to Fox TV studios in Chicago after a postal service worker dropped off the letter on Jan. 22. The letter was postmarked in southwest suburban Bedford Park on Jan. 18.
The envelope contained a note with letters cut out from a magazine to spell the words “You will die black f*g”.
Smollett has vehemently denied staging his own attack. His lawyers notified the state’s attorney’s office on Wednesday to say Smollett was ready to speak with them before the charges were announced.
Photos by Maciel / BACKGRID, Patriot Pics / BACKGRID