The Chicago police announced on Wednesday that she was now considering Jussie Smollett, the actor of "the Empire" who claimed to have been a victim of a hate crime, a suspect in allegations that he actually organized the attack that he reported in January.
Law enforcement officials said that they had begun to present evidence to a grand jury in what now appears to be a case in which investigators believe that Mr. Smollett falsely claimed to have been attack.
Mr. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told the police that when he was walking in downtown Chicago, he was confronted by masked white men who had thrown him on racial slurs and homophobic and announced that it was the "MAGA country". reference to President Trump's campaign slogan.
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The statement from the Chicago Police Department said: "Jussie Smollett is now officially listed as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (class 4 crime). The detectives presently present evidence before a grand jury of Cook County. "
Mr. Smollett was immediately supported by the public. Many people cite his story as one of the many examples of the growing wave of hate crimes that the F.B.I. reported last fall had risen for the third year in a row.
But the change of mentality of the investigators has triggered an avalanche of criticism towards the media, politicians and activists who, according to many critics, were too quick to adopt a summary account in order to tarnish the president.
Mr. Smollett continued to vehemently insist that the incident occurred at the very moment he reported it. One of her representatives said she was "aware of the news" but had no other comments.
But from the beginning, the investigators had trouble corroborating the story of Mr. Smollett, even with a dozen detectives assigned to the case. Questions quickly arose as to whether the incident occurred in the manner described by Mr. Smollett.
No surveillance camera caught the attack. There were no witnesses. He had not reported it from the scene and was still wearing a noose that he had said the authors had placed around his neck on his return home.
The investigators, however, were able to find two men who appeared on video footage not far from the scene that night. Using carpool data, they discovered that the two men were brothers who actually knew Mr. Smollett. One of them had acted as an extra on "Empire".
Police first identified the brothers as potential suspects of the attack, then released them after, according to anonymous law enforcement officials, who reportedly said that Mr. Smollett had organized the attack and reportedly paid them $ 3,500.
The Olabinjo brothers and Abimbola Osundairo, of Nigerian origin, were summoned as witnesses before the grand jury on Wednesday night with their lawyer.
Filing a false police report in Illinois is technically called disorderly behavior and can be characterized as a crime or a crime. In the case of Mr. Smollett, police said in his statement that the grand jury was considering a charge, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.