'It Pissed Everybody Off:' Chicago Police Sounds Off on Smollett's Hoax

Friday, 22 Feb, 2019

Thursday Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson criticized celebrities, the media and presidential candidates for commenting on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's allegedly staged hate crime.

He originally told police he was attacked by two masked men as he was leaving a Subway restaurant near his apartment in Chicago around 2 a.m. on January 29. Johnson first referred to a threatening letter "that relied on racial, homophobic and political language", which police believe that Smollett arranged to have sent to the FOX series' set. Smollett had said that his assailants referenced Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan as he was attacked in the Streeterville neighborhood of the city.

During the news briefing, Johnson expressed his anger at Smollett for creating this publicity stunt and taking advantage of very real hatred against people and suffering of those people for personal gain.

As police continued to investigate and were unable to locate surveillance footage of the attack, some began questioning Smollett's story.

The men - Ola and Abel Osundairo - had left the U.S. following the alleged attack and were held for almost 48 hours after they returned last week. I'm left hanging my head and asking why.

A source close to production tells ET that Smollett's Empire salary is significantly higher than initial reports of $65,000 an episode and that the actors all got significant raises early in the show's life when it became a big hit. The actor's legal team issued a statement saying: "Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence". "Also, everyone that I know who knows him says that he is not the kind of person who would make up such a disgusting and bad thing".

The actor is now under arrest by the Chicago Police Department and remains in custody according to a police statement posted on Twitter.

The 36-year-old, who came out as gay in 2015, has been charged with making a false police report and disorderly conduct and is expected to appear in court later today. It was previously reported that Smollett feared he was going to be cut from the show, which Fox initially denied, though The Wrap later reported his scenes had been reduced for the remainder of the current season.

Smollett faces up to three years behind bars.

Jussie Smollett has been charged with "orchestrating" his own attack, according to the Chicago PD. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense", the statement read.