Jussie Smollett may be considered a suspect for filing a false police report over his alleged assault, and many fans are wondering what will happen if the Empire star is found to have lied about the violent attack.
In addition to potentially facing real jail time, Smollett could also find his acting career in jeopardy.
Variety spoke with Ronn Torossian, founder of 5W Public Relations, who shared his insight on the situation.
"The best thing that Jussie can do is pray and pray a lot," Torossian said. "If he made it up, he has big problems in both the court of law and the court of public opinion."
In late January, Smollett claimed that he was assaulted by two white men who told him he was in "MAGA country," and proceeded to beat him for being being black and gay. The assault was quickly suspected to be a hate crime, and investigated as such.
Police eventually tracked down two persons of interest in the situation and brought them in for questioning. The men turned out to be Abel and Ola Osundairo, who have reportedly told police that Smollett orchestrated the whole thing and paid them to help.
Regarding the heat that Smollett is now facing, a handful of legal experts have weighed in on what he's potentially facing.
"It's a very, very, very serious situation," said former federal prosecutor-turned-Chicago criminal defense attorney Phil Turner. "He's got some very significant exposure."
"It's a very high-profile case," former Cook County State's Attorney's Office prosecutor Andrew Weisberg added. "Prosecutors tend to be tougher because everybody's watching. … I think they may come down hard, in terms of not reducing it to a misdemeanor."
"They're not going to ruin a guy's life over this," Chicago defense attorney Steve Greenberg offered. "People make false reports all the time to the police. They get in a DUI, they call police and say, 'My car was stolen.' Ninety percent of the time, even if they're charged with a felony, those people end up pleading to a misdemeanor."
Smollett has denied the accusations that created the assault as a hoax, saying through his attorney, "As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."0comments
At this time, it is unknown if the Chicago police department will file charges against Smollett. If the actor did indeed falsify a police report, the charge against him would be a Class 4 felony in the state of Illinois.
This particular charge carries a possible sentence of as little as one year or as many as three years behind bars. Additionally, Variety notes that "Smollett could also be ordered to pay restitution to compensate for the cost of the Chicago Police Department investigation."