CHICAGO (CBS) — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, the Cook County States Attorney says. Smollett’s defense attorneys say they plan to mount an aggressive defense, but if the actor is found guilty of the felony charge, legal experts say he could spend time behind bars.
The actor’s saga is now almost a month in the making. It culminates when the 36-year-old faces a judge Thursday.
“This is known out of 26th and California as a heater case,” said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller.
Miller says the charge carries the possibility Smollett could serve one to three years in jail if convicted.
“Do I think that he’s going to end up getting some jail time if in fact he’s convicted of it? And he is presumed to be innocent. Well, it’s hard to say because he really has no felony background. I understand he did have a little problem out in L.A. with giving false information and a DUI, but under Illinois law there’s a presumption of probation in cases like this.”
But Miller points out Smollett’s prior no contest plea to providing false information to police could come back to haunt him. In 2007, Smollett gave officers his brother’s name after being pulled over for a DUI, Los Angeles police say. He also signed a false name on a promise to appear in court. He got two years probation for that misdemeanor.
“Well, he knows falsifying information is against the law. He knows that,” Miller said. “And believe me, if there’s a sentencing hearing in this case, you can be sure the prosecutor is going to let the judge know that.”
Then there’s the hate letter addressed to Smollett and sent to the “Empire” set last month. Miller believes United States postal inspectors may be looking to determine if Smollett could have orchestrated that. If so, it could be the subject of a totally separate investigation, and, if warranted, set of federal charges.
And that’s where Miller says the brothers, who told police Smollett hired them to stage the attack, could again be called in for questioning about any potential involvement there.