Actor Jussie Smollett, best known for his role on Empire, turned himself in to Chicago police early on Thursday morning shortly after being charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. As he awaits a bail hearing scheduled for later in the afternoon, authorities have been releasing staggering details about his curious alleged plot to fake a racist and homophobic hate crime against himself.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson held a heated news conference concerning the department’s investigation on Thursday morning. Johnson claimed that Smollett had orchestrated the fake attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” According to the Huffington Post, Smollett was paid $65,000 per episode during the latest season of Empire, which is currently on a midseason break. Seasons of the show typically contain 18 episodes. News outlets had previously reported that Smollett’s alleged gambit was in response to fears that he was being written off Empire, though the show’s network, Fox, soon released a statement denying this was the case.
Johnson further alleged during the conference that Smollett had initially sent a false letter to the set of Empire filled with racist and homophobic threats against himself. The letters “MAGA” were reportedly written on the corner of the envelope. When that failed to generate enough attention, Johnson claims, Smollett then paid brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo with a $3,500 check to carry out the staged assault a week later. Johnson added that detectives are in possession of the check.
Smollett first reported on Jan. 29 that two men had beat him, put a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and hurled racist and homophobic epithets. He added that the assailants had shouted, “This is MAGA country.”
Chicago police soon launched a hate crime investigation into the incident. They were able to track down the Osundairo brothers by finding the cab and ride share they used to flee the scene. Investigators took the brothers into custody as they were returning from Nigeria on Feb. 13. The brothers claimed that Smollett had paid them to fake the crime.
Superintendent Johnson was clearly angry during the conference and repeatedly condemned Smollett. “It’s just despicable,” he said. “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?”
In response to the news, Fox released a statement reading, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
President Donald Trump also issued a tweet directed at Smollett.
Smollett could face up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. His attorneys have indicated that they will investigate the incident themselves and maintained that the actor was not involved in planning the attack.