Chicago police accused Jussie Smollett of taking “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career” as they charged the “Empire” actor with staging his own attack and filing a false police report.
According to CBS News, police determined Smollett faked the incident as a publicity stunt, because “he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
During a Thursday morning press conference, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the actor used the reality of racism in an attempt to further his own career, and that the “publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn, and certainly didn’t deserve.”
Smollett claimed to police that he was attacked in the early morning hours of January 29 as he walked home. The black and openly-gay actor said two men shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they assaulted him, put a noose around his neck, and splashed a chemical on him.
But upon investigation, police determined that Smollett had paid the men $3,500 to participate in his scheme. Ola and Abel Osundairo were directed to purchase the rope, masks and a red hat for the attack, said police — who are in possession of the check allegedly used to pay them.
Johnson was shocked and appalled: “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?”
He added: “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?”
Johnson also lamented that future victims of real hate crimes might “now publicly be met with a level of skepticism that previously didn’t happen.”
Smollett faces one felony charge of disorderly conduct, CBS News reported.
His attorneys released a statement in light of the new charge, saying: “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. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”