In a scathing rebuke, Chicago Police officials asserted Thursday that actor Jussie Smollett set up a hate crime hoax on Jan. 29 because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the Fox series “Empire.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson presided over a press conference Thursday morning after Smollett turned himself in to police to face a charge of filing a false police report. Johnson told reporters he was angered by what he described as Smollett’s “smear” of the city by claiming he was the victim of a vicious hate crime spurred by racism and homophobia.
Johnson called Smollett’s actions “shameful” and accused him of hurting the entire city with a stunt planned for his own self-interest. He also criticized the actor for forcing the city to expend time and resources on an investigation when Smollett knew there was no crime. Smollett is to be formally charged and face a bond hearing Thursday.
“It painted this city that we all love and work hard in in a negative connotation,” Johnson said during the roughly 25-minute news conference. “To insinuate and stage a hate crime of this nature — it’s just despicable. It makes you wonder what’s going through someone’s mind to do something like that.”
Representatives for Smollett could not be reached for comment.
Johnson and Chicago Police commander Edward Wodnicki offered a detailed timeline of the case and the investigation that has unfolded during the past three weeks. Smollett is accused of playing two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, to physically attack him and yell racist and homophobic slurs in the early hours of Jan. 29.
The brothers were taken in to custody on Feb. 13. After two days of questioning, the pair broke down and confessed to being paid by Smollett to stage the attack. Johnson said police didn’t secure confirmation that the incident was a hoax “until the 47th hour” of the 48-hour period in which police could hold them without formal charges.
Johnson said police went into the investigation treating Smollett as a victim although there was some skepticism about his account of the incident. Smollett told police that the attackers poured bleach on him and slipped a noose around his neck. He also reported that the attackers yelled “MAGA,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
“From the very beginning we had some questions about it,” Johnson said. “We gave Mr. Smollett the benefit of the doubt until the 47th hour of the 48 hours we could hold those two individuals.”