Jussie Smollett created attack as ‘shameful’ publicity stunt, police say

Jussie Smollett orchestrated a fake homophobic and racist attack on himself as a “publicity stunt” because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire, according to Chicago police.

The openly gay star was arrested on Thursday (February 21) after being charged with filing a false report over the alleged attack, which took place in Chicago last month.

Smollett faces up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines if found guilty of arranging what Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson has called a “hoax,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson slams Jussie Smollett for “shameful” act

At a press briefing on Thursday, Johnson said: “This announcement today recognises that Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

The police chief, who is African-American himself, called Smollett’s behaviour “shameful,” adding: “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?

“He paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process.”

— Chicago police chief Eddie T. Johnson about Jussie Smollett

“How could someone look at the hatred associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his profile?”

He said the Empire actor first attempted to drum up attention from the public by sending a fake racist letter to his place of work.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the FBI was investigating hate mail sent to Smollett in the days leading up to his alleged attack.

Jussie Smollett speaks at the Children's Defense Fund California's 28th Annual Beat The Odds Awards at Skirball Cultural Center on December 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

Lawyers for Jussie Smollett have promised to “mount an aggressive defence.” (Gabriel Olsen/Getty)

Johnson said that “when that didn’t work, he paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process.”

Police officers have reported that they have the cheque paid to brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, one of whom worked as an extra on Empire.

They are reportedly being treated as witnesses, after initially being held in custody.

Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson worried that Jussie Smollett “hoax” could impact hate crime investigations

Johnson also voiced the concern that reports of hate crimes would be treated with more cynicism after Smollett’s arrest.

“We will investigate with the same amount of vigour,” he said, “[but] my concern is now hate crimes will be met with a level of scepticism that previously didn’t happen.”

He continued: “I only hope the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention the hoax did.

“Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared, admitting what he did and then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that were used.”

In a statement, Smollett’s lawyers said: “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 defence.”

President Donald Trump has tweeted in response to Smollett’s arrest, writing: “.@JussieSmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA.”

Trump condemned the alleged attack two days after it happened, calling the incident “horrible” before adding: “It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.”

A bond hearing is set to take place on Thursday (February 21) at Chicago’s Cook County Criminal Court, according to police.