Jussie Smollett staged attack to 'promote his career', say police

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Empire actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack because he was unhappy about his salary and wanted to promote his career, Chicago's police superintendent has said.

Smollett also sent a "racist and homophobic" threatening letter to the Fox studio lot where he works in Chicago before the attack, Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

The actor turned himself in and was arrested early on Thursday to face accusations that he filed a false police report when he told authorities he was attacked in Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck.



"He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Mr Johnson told reporters at a news conference.

"This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve," he later added.

Fox has said it is "evaluating the situation" regarding Smollett's place in Empire following his arrest.

The TV company said in a statement: "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."


'Presumption of innocence'

Chicago Police detective commander Edward Wodnicki (right)

Mr Johnson said Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 (£2,680) to stage the attack.

Following three weeks of mounting suspicions, Smollett was charged on Wednesday with felony disorder conduct, a charge that could bring up to three years in prison and force the actor, who is black and gay, to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report of a January 29 beating.

In a statement, lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said Smollett "enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked".

Smollett, who plays a gay character on the hit Fox television show Empire, said he was attacked as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop in central Chicago.

He said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and shouted "This is MAGA country" - an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan Make America Great Again - before fleeing.

After reviewing hundreds of hours of video, detectives did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question and last week picked up the brothers at O'Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria.


'Incentives for being a victim'



US Journalist Andy Ngo discusses the Smollett case with talkRADIO's Toby Young. 

The brothers, who were identified by their lawyer as Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett.

The day after they were released, police said the men provided information that had "shifted the trajectory of the investigation", and detectives requested another interview with Smollett.

Police said one of the men had worked on Empire, and Smollett's lawyers said one of the men is the actor's personal trainer, whom he hired to help get him physically ready for a music video.



Smollett was charged by prosecutors, not the grand jury.

Andy Ngo, Portland-based US journalist told talkRADIO’s Toby Young that American society was “providing incentives for being a victim”.

“In America I think what is very evident now is that victimhood… has really mainstreamed in our culture,” he said.

“When I was looking into hate-crime hoaxes that have happened in the last couple of years, they mostly centred right after the election where there was this panic.”

He added: “This is what happens when society and culture provide incentives for being a victim.”