Empire actor Jussie Smollett turned himself in to Chicago Police early Thursday morning, hours after a grand jury brought him up on charges for allegedly staging a racist and homophobic attack against himself last month.
Police have since transferred Smollett to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, where he was scheduled to appear for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. He has been charged with one count of disorderly conduct.
If found guilty, Smollett could face probation, or up to one-and-a-half years in prison, reports CBS Chicago.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed he was attacked in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood by two masked men, one of whom was wearing a red hat, during the early morning hours of Jan. 29 while talking on the phone with his manager.
Smollett said the men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical believed to be bleach on him. Smollett’s manager, Brandon Moore, claimed that he heard the attackers calling Smollett “Empire faggot [racial expletive]” and shouting “This is MAGA country!”
But police grew skeptical of Smollett’s account, especially after he refused to turn over complete phone records to back up his story. Surveillance cameras did not catch the attack on video, and police pointed to several inconsistencies in his story, and continued asking the actor to provide more details of the attack.
In a news conference Thursday morning, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson accused Smollett of slapping the city in the face and alleged that Smollet staged the attack because “he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn, and certainly didn’t deserve.
“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?” Johnson added. “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? 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?”
“How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago, turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face,” says CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Jussie Smollett turned himself in around 5 a.m., police said. "Bogus police reports cause real harm." pic.twitter.com/jo0FNYXouc
— CBS Chicago (@cbschicago) February 21, 2019
Johnson also said that false police reports cause real harm, and will lead to much more skepticism when victims of real hate crimes come forward to make a report.
Police allege that Smollett paid two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, $3,500 to stage the attack. Both men were arrested last week, but were eventually released without being charged.
Police say they have a copy of the check Smollett wrote to the brothers, and have evidence that the injuries to Smollett’s face were self-inflicted. They also claim Smollett told the brothers to buy the noose at a hardware store and the hat and masks at a store in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood — as seen in video footage obtained by CBS 2 Chicago.
The Osundairo brothers, who testified before a grand jury on Wednesday, admit to helping stage the attack on Smollett. They have also claimed Smollett was also behind creating a racist letter sent to the studio where Empire is filmed.
But when the letter didn’t get a bigger reaction, the brothers say, Smollett hatched the plan to stage the physical attack.
Smollett’s lawyers released a statement following his indictment by the grand jury.
“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,” the statement reads. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
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