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Jussie Smollett staged attack because he was dissatisfied with Empire salary, say Chicago police

Photo: Santiago Felipe (Getty Images)

After weeks of conflicting reports, teary interviews, and more rumors than our broken brains were designed to handle, the Chicago Police Department has presented the results of its investigation into the alleged hate-fueled assault of Empire actor Jussie Smollett. As the Chicago Tribune reports, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, rage in his voice, revealed that Smollett faked a threatening, homophobic letter (“MAGA” was the return address) before staging the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire.

Per Johnson, Smollett paid $3,500 to Abel and Ola Osundairo, brothers who had previously worked on Empire, to stage the attack, and that the scratches and bruises on Smollett’s face were “self-inflicted.” Johnson said the detectives assigned to the case are in possession of the check.

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Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said. “It’s shameful. It’s just despicable...It makes you wonder what’s going on in someone’s mind to be able to do something like that.” Johnson added, “I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention.”

Deadline reports that Johnson also commented on the noose that was placed around Smollett’s neck during the staged attack. “Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” Johnson said. “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? 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?”

After a Cook County Grand Jury handed down an indictment against Smollett on Wednesday, the actor turned himself in to Chicago police on Thursday morning. He’s facing a a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly making a false police report, could carry as many as three years of prison time. “He was very quiet and didn’t say anything,” police spokesman Thomas Ahern said. “He went with detectives and they booked him.”

On Wednesday night, Smollett’s attorneys issued a statement on his behalf. “Like any other citizen, Mr. 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,” they said. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

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Smollett is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing sometime on Thursday.

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.