“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett hatched a plot to make himself appear to be the victim of a hate crime because he was “dissatisfied with his salary,” according to Chicago police.
Smollett turned himself in to police on charges of filing a false police report on Thursday, nearly one month after he claimed to have been the victim of a racist, homophobic hate crime. Chicago police allege that Smollett orchestrated not only the Jan. 29 attack, but the threatening letter he received in the mail a week before, authorities said in a press conference hours after Smollett’s arrest.
Smollett “concocted a story about being attacked,” Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said, calling the actor’s story “bogus” and describing his conduct as “shameful.”
Johnson said that the 36-year-old “Empire” star, who is black and gay, initially “attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language.”
“When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” Johnson said.
Smollett claimed last month to have been assaulted by two men who beat him, threw a chemical that may have been bleach on him, and left a noose around his neck. He claimed that the men said, “This is MAGA country,” as they left.
As police continued to investigate and were unable to locate surveillance footage of the attack, some began questioning Smollett’s story. However, the actor repeatedly claimed that he’d been consistent in his story, and said he was “pissed off” over being “attacked” in the media during an interview with “Good Morning America” earlier this month. His family also came to his aid, issuing a statement supporting him and other victims of hate crimes, and later doubling down on that support as backlash continued to mount.
Smollett’s case took an unexpected turn last week when police arrested, and later released, two brothers who claimed that Smollett paid them to orchestrate the attack. The actor turned himself in to police early Thursday, one day after he was charged with filing a false police report. He faces a maximum of three years in prison, and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
Superintendent Johnson admonished Smollett for “manipulating” a symbol of racism — a noose — for his own gain during Thursday’s conference.
“Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?” he said. “How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”
“Bogus police reports cause real harm,” he continued. “They do harm to every legitimate victim who’s in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city.”
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