Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi announced via Twitter early Thursday that Smollett “is under arrest and in custody of detectives.”
Smollett turned himself in at 5:15 a.m. local time and made a statement to police before being taken into custody. His lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, were not present at the time but they released the following statement the night before, “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 an aggressive defense.”
Chicago police will hold a press briefing at 9 a.m. local time, Guglielmi said.
Press Briefing: Jussie Smollet is under arrest and in custody of detectives. At 9am at #ChicagoPolice Headquarters, Supt Eddie Johnson, Commander of Area Central Detectives Edward Wodnicki will brief reporters on the investigation prior to the defendants appearance in court. pic.twitter.com/9PSv8Ojec2
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 21, 2019
Smollett told police he was attacked by two masked men near his apartment in Chicago. The two men, Smollett initially said, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him as a rope was wrapped around his neck and a chemical compound was poured on him. The alleged assailants yelled “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan, police were told.
In an interview with “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, Smollett said he was heartbroken when he found out that people questioned his story.
Police identified and questioned two “persons of interest” captured on surveillance video near the scene around the time of the alleged attack. The men, who are brothers, were arrested on Feb. 13 but then released without charges, with police saying they were no longer considered suspects.
While being questioned by investigators, the brothers claimed that Smollett paid them to help orchestrate and stage the crime after he became upset that a letter threatening him, sent Jan. 22 to the Fox studio where “Empire” is filmed, did not get enough attention, sources told ABC News.
On Wednesday, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false crime report. By that evening, police officially had classified the actor as a suspect in the ongoing investigation. Detectives subsequently presented evidence to a Cook County grand jury.
“That was a pretty hateful allegation, and it really put a terrible look on Chicago,” Guglielmi told ABC Chicago station WLS in a telephone interview Thursday morning. “Chicago trusted this young man. We loved ‘Empire,’ and we took this very seriously that something this hateful could happen in our city.”