In some cases, lying to police can come with weak penalty

WGN Investigates
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CHICAGO – From Day 1, the alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was no ordinary case.

Within 48 hours of Jussie Smollett reporting he had been attacked, not one, but two Democratic presidential candidates called what allegedly happened to him a “modern day lynching.”

Everyone from TMZ to the Times of London jumped on the story.

The story was full of bizarre turns, as Smollett appeared on “Good Morning America” and described the alleged incident and the racists and homophobic attacks he said it contained.

But take away the celebrity and the political implications, and you have a man accused of lying about being the victim of a crime.

Chicago police did not immediately provide numbers; but it happens more often than you might think.

For example, in 2017 Katie Mager and Ryan Reieirsgaard told police they were robbed at knifepoint just three blocks from where Smollett claimed to have been attacked.

The tourists from Minnesota claimed someone stole a $12,000 engagement ring and other valuables.  They later admitted to making it up for fun.

“We have false police reports that are made all the time,” said WGN legal analyst and former prosecutor Terry Sullivan.  “They don’t get the coverage and all that that this one did.”

In the case of the Minnesota tourists, both pled guilty to filing a false police report, received two years probation and fines of a few hundred dollars.

Prosecutors hit Smollett with a similar “felony disorderly conduct” charge. It also carries the possibility of probation and fines.

“Now that he’s been charged with a felony that gives the state’s attorney’s office more room to maneuver through negotiations in the future,” said Sullivan.

It could mean pleading guilty to a lesser offense.  In theory, Chicago police could also go after Smollett in civil court to recoup the cost of their investigation.

 

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