Baltimore Criminal Defense lawyer: Jussie Smollett’s potential crimes

Baltimore Criminal Defense lawyer: Jussie Smollett’s potential crimes

As many of you may have heard, Jussie Smollett, supporting actor on TV’s successful drama series “Empire” now faces criminal charges for filing a false police report.  My partner, ENLawyer Jeremy Eldridge spoke on today’s Fox45 Baltimore Morning Show today about Smollett’s bail situation and the charges (and potential charges) he faces.  Today, I want to break down the potential charges Jussie Smollett could face here in Maryland if the incident had occurred locally (not in Chicago).  For a Cook County Criminal Defense lawyer’s take on the situation, you will need to check out Gregory Walker’s web page (a fellow UB Alumnus’).

THE KNOWN FACTS

Jussie Smollett, according to CNN, reported to police on January 29, 2019 that he was attacked by two people who were yelling out racial and homophobic slurs and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.  They put a rope around his neck and fled the scene.  As police investigated, they discovered videos that contradicted the story of Smollett.  Further, it is alleged that Smollett paid 2 co-conspirators to attack him, in hopes of either boosting his profile, salary, or both.  He also is being investigated by the FBI for sending himself hate mail a few weeks before this incident.

The question is: what charges could he face in Maryland and Baltimore Criminal Courts (not Federal Court, with Mail Fraud and other potential crimes)

Md. Crim. Law §9-501 False Statement to a Law Enforcement Officer

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not make, or cause to be made, a statement, report, or complaint that the person knows to be false as a whole or in material part, to a law enforcement officer of the State, of a county, municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the State, or of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Police with intent to deceive and to cause an investigation or other action to be taken as a result of the statement, report, or complaint.
(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.

§ 9-503. False statement — To public official concerning crime or hazard

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not make, or cause to be made, a statement or report that the person knows to be false as a whole or in material part to an official or unit of the State or of a county, municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the State that a crime has been committed or that a condition imminently dangerous to public safety or health exists, with the intent that the official or unit investigate, consider, or take action in connection with that statement or report.
(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.

§ 9-307. Tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

(a) Tampering with physical evidence. — A person may not destroy, alter, conceal, or remove physical evidence that the person believes may be used in a pending or future official proceeding with the intent to impair the verity or availability of the physical evidence in the official proceeding.
(b) Fabrication of physical evidence. — A person may not fabricate physical evidence in order to impair the verity of the physical evidence with the intent to deceive and that the fabricated physical evidence be introduced in a pending or future official proceeding.
(c) Introduction of altered or fabricated evidence in official proceeding. — A person may not introduce physical evidence in an official proceeding if the person knows that the evidence has been altered or fabricated with the intent to deceive in order to impair the verity of the physical evidence.
(d) Violation; penalties. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $ 5,000 or both.

Bottom Line

The Jussie Smollett saga is far from over.  What’s truly interesting is that Illinois clearly has a FELONY false statement statute.  Maryland does not.  The potential crimes (depending on the evidence) that Mr. Smollett would face under Maryland law would only total 4 years, assuming that he tampered or fabricated physical evidence, but it’s not even clear that statute would fit the bill.  Obstruction doesn’t seem to fit the fact pattern either, without more information, as he didn’t do anything to impede the investigation.  What is true, is that Mr. Smollett will need good legal counsel.  He should, being in Cook County, contact our friend Gregory Walker for help.

In Maryland if you find yourself charged with Obstruction, Witness tampering, or filing a false report, remember to contact ENLawyers for all your legal needs.

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