Jussie Smollett retained counsel and won’t be cooperating further with the Chicago Police Department’s investigation into his assault and hate crimes allegations. What if it turns out that Smollett staged the crime, made the report and went to the press for publicity or for some other reason? Lying to a police officer might result in a criminal conviction.
If the incident and the report were to have occurred in New York, Smollett would be charged with violating Article 240 of the New York Penal Law, Offenses Against Public Order, and specifically, Falsely Reporting an Incident. In New York, he might also be charged with violating Article 210 of the Penal Law if he signed a false statement that was either notarized or contained a warning regarding falsity. Illinois’s analogous criminal statute prohibiting false reports is contained within Chapter 720 of the Illinois Criminal Statutes, Disorderly Conduct (a very different statute from the NY Disorderly Conduct law). In Illinois, if Smollett fabricated and reported the attack to the police, he could be charged with a felony under Chapter 720 §26-1(4), and if he requested an ambulance as a result of the false incident and did not truly need emergency medical care, he could be charged under §26-1(9) as well.
26-1(4) reads, in relevant part, as follows: “Transmits a report to the effect that an offense has been committed, knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for believing that the offense has been committed.” This is a D Felony under Illinois law.
26-1(9) reads, in relevant part, as follows: “Transmits a false request for an ambulance, emergency medical technician-ambulance or emergency medical technician-paramedic knowing at the time there is no reasonable ground for believing that the assistance is required.”
In Illinois, lying to the police is not always considered a crime. Lying to the police under the above circumstances or lying about your identity when you are arrested, for instance (like New York), may result in criminal prosecution.
If it turns out that Smollett lied, he will be prosecuted for these crimes and others.
It is never a good idea to falsely report an incident or lie to the police. Remember, you are never under any obligation to speak to the police and you should always retain counsel before you are either informally or formally being questioned.