At approximately 5:00 a.m. CT on Thursday morning, Empire star Jussie Smollett turned himself in to Chicago police and was arrested for a class 4 disorderly conduct, filing a false police report. The charges stem from an incident in which the 36-year-old actor, who is openly gay, claimed two white men wearing ski masks attacked him with a rope and bleach while asking if he was “that f*ggot Empire n*gger” and yelling, “This is MAGA country!”
Four hours later, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stepped in front of reporters for a news briefing in which he detailed the CPD investigation and the exact circumstances of Smollett’s crime.
Johnson opened his remarks by saying he wished “that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention because that’s who really deserves the amount of attention that we are giving to this particular in distinct.” He would later say that a number of homicides were solved by the CPD while the Smollett investigation was going on, and that he hoped the press would “give the families of those victims this amount of attention.”
He continued by decrying Smollett’s actions:
“[He] took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to advance his career. I’m left hanging my head and asking why. 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?”
At that point, Johnson revealed that Smollett had paid Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who had worked on Empire, $3,500 to stage the attack. After being later questioned by reporters, he stated that they had the actual check the brothers had received as payment. According to Johnson, Smollett orchestrated the attack because “he was dissatisfied with his salary” from the hit FOX show.
Smollett initially tried to attract attention by sending a “false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language.” When that failed to draw the intended result, the actor moved on to arranging what Johnson described as a “simply shameful… scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
Speaking of scars, Johnson revealed that while the Osundairos did punch Smollett during the staged attack, the scars and bruising on the actor’s face were “likely self-inflicted.” He also said that while Smollett was on the phone with his manager, Brandon Moore, at the time of the incident, police do not know yet if Moore was aware of the plan. However, there are still a number of subpoenas and warrants yet to be served.
Superintendent Johnson went on to praise the police work by the detectives who handled the investigation, noting that it was “indicative of the work detectives do every day in this city.” They combed through hours of camera footage, all while treating Smollett as the victim in the case. Following the Osundairos back in time through the video, they saw them take a ride share to the scene of the staged attack, and that led them to obtaining the pairs’ names and identities. Detectives discovered they had booked a roundtrip flight to Nigeria with a return date of February 13th. While they were out of the country, detectives continued their investigation until the brothers were arrested at customs upon returning.
After interviewing her clients, the brothers’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, told police she thought something was “fishy” about the case and that she believed “They are not offenders; they are victims.” It wasn’t until the 47th hour of the brothers’ detainment that they confessed to the circumstances of the plot, turning from suspects into corroborating witnesses. They were released from custody hour later. Further investigation into phone records revealed Smollett had been in touch with the Osundairos “an hour or so before and after [the staged attack] and while they were out of the country.”
Up until that point, Smollett was given the “benefit of the doubt.” “When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off because we have to invest valuable resources,” Johnson told reporters.
“We do not nor will we ever tolerate hate in our city, whether that hate is based on anyone’s race, sexual orientation, or anything else,” he added. “I am offended at what happened… I only hope the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention as the hoax did.”
Johnson also expressed concern over “what this means moving forward for hate crimes… [I worry] hate crimes will now publicly be met with a level of skepticism that previously didn’t happen.”
Smollett’s attorney turned him over smoothly at 5:00 a.m. CT. He is scheduled to appear at a bond hearing 1:30 p.m. CT. Smollett faces up to three years in prison if found guilty. Update: Smollett was released on $100,000 bond. He must surrender his passport and is subject to pretrial monitoring.
Johnson reiterated numerous times during the briefing that while the CPD treat every hate crime claim seriously, they didn’t give this incident any special attention because of Smollett’s celebrity. “You all gave this more attention specifically than we do,” he told the media. He lamented the amount of “resources and time spent [on this case] that we’re never getting back.”
“Absolute justice would be an apology to this city which he smeared, admitting what he did,” Johnson concluded. “And then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that went into this.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also issued a statement, which you can read below.
“I want to thank all of the Chicago police officers who have worked on this case, and all of the private citizens and business owners who have stepped forward with information and video evidence to help us get to the bottom of what was reported as a hate crime. All across Chicago, in every neighborhood, there are signs in front yards and in windows that read, “Hate Has No Home Here.” It is a sign that expresses our shared values and defines our great city. Chicago’s message to the world is that no matter where you come from, who you love, or how you pray you will always have a home here. Our laws exist to reflect and defend those values, and hate crimes will never be tolerated. A single individual who put their perceived self-interest ahead of these shared principles will never trump Chicago’s collective spirit.”
Below, find Smollett’s mugshot: