“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack.”
The FBI is investigating whether Jussie Smollett sent himself a threatening letter at the Chicago studio where his Fox TV show “Empire” is filmed, ABC News reported Tuesday.
Two anonymous officials confirmed the nature of the investigation, which reportedly also involves the US Postal Service. The Jan. 22 letter is being analyzed at the FBI crime lab, one of the sources said.
Smollett received the letter, which contained white powder, on Jan. 22 at Cinespace Studios, prompting a Hazmat response. Chicago police said the white substance was later determined to be aspirin.
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The text appeared to be pasted together from characters cut from magazines, and contained racial and homophobic threats toward Smollett. A magazine and a book of stamps are among the pieces of evidence seized last week from the home of two Nigerian-American brothers allegedly connected to the case during a search conducted by Chicago police, CBS 2 reported.
Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo reportedly accused Smollett of being involved in sending the letter. The brothers – who were extras on “Empire” and friendly with Smollett – also told police that the actor paid them to stage a Jan. 29 attack on him outside his Chicago apartment after the letter failed to get enough attention, according to reports Monday.
“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack,” a source told CBS 2. Other sources reportedly corroborated that information.
Police, who were not offering further comment on Monday, are looking into the Osundairo brothers’ account, but they have yet to verify their allegations, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told ABC News. No one has been charged in connection with the case.
If the goal of the attack was to get attention, the scheme worked, triggering credulous and outraged responses from the media, liberals, and leading Democrats, some of whom are now distancing themselves from the actor.
Smollett described the letter last Thursday during an emotional appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“On the letter, it had a stick figure hanging from a tree with a gun pointing toward it,” he told host Robin Roberts.
Smollett also offered his version of the attack. He said that two men jumped him outside his Chicago apartment in the early hours of Jan. 29. They pegged him as a gay and black actor from “Empire,” he said, and used racial and homophobic slurs against him – at one point shouting, “This is ‘MAGA’ country!”
After the attack, Smollett noticed a rope around his neck and bleach stains on his clothes, he said.
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The actor claimed to be persecuted not just by his attackers, but by American culture more broadly. He said he was “pissed off” about both experiences and blamed Donald Trump for his plight, even though, as host Robin Roberts pointed out, the president had condemned the attack.
“I come really really hard against 45. I come really really hard against his administration. I don’t hold my tongue. I can only go off of their words,” he said, referring to the “MAGA” slogan and slurs he said his attackers shouted.
Meanwhile, Smollett has continued to play the victim. The actor is “angered and devastated” and has been “further victimized” by reports that the men told police that he enlisted them to attack him, his attorneys said in a statement released late Saturday night. They outright denied the claims against their client.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” began Smollett attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
The lawyers went on to express disbelief at the notion that Smollett could have been so betrayed by the brothers, with whom he worked on “Empire.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continued. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.”
A grand jury will hear the case next week, TMZ reported, though the celebrity news site did not elaborate on who is facing charges or for what they might be.
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