“Be man enough to offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this.”
Chicago police said Thursday that Jussie Smollett likely scratched and bruised his own face to fake an attack against him, and also paid two Nigerian-American brothers to punch him.
As far as the motive of the actor, who is black and gay, police said that he staged the Jan. 29 incident with the help of the brothers as a “publicity stunt” because he was dissatisfied with the salary he was making on Fox’s “Empire” TV show and wanted more attention.
Earlier in the day, Smollett surrendered at central booking on a charge of felony disorderly conduct. His lawyers said they would vigorously fight the charge.
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Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a press conference that Smollett, 36, “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.” He said the actor should admit what he did and “then be man enough to offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this.”
Smollett owes Chicago an apology for dragging the city’s “reputation through the mud,” Johnson added.
Investigators said they think Smollett, who was named a suspect and charged on Wednesday, hoped that the fake attack would be captured by one of the city’s many security cameras, but the camera at the location where the attack happened was pointed in the wrong direction.
They also revealed some of the evidence against Smollett and the brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who worked as extras on “Empire.”
Detective Commander Edward Wodnicki said that, thanks to security camera footage, investigators were able to see the brothers flee into a cab and to follow the cab to another location in the city. They later watched as the two men boarded a flight from O’Hare International Airport to their native Nigeria.
Phone records show that Smollett and the Osundairos were in extensive contact before and after the attack, including while the brothers were in Nigeria, police said. When the men returned to Chicago on Feb. 13, they were detained and questioned for nearly two days.
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Police said they have a $3,500 check the actor paid the Osundairos, allegedly for their assistance in staging the attack.
The brothers’ account turned what was a “potential hate crime” investigation into a probe of Smollett, police said, and they are no considered suspects.
Smollett claimed that masked men jumped him outside his Chicago apartment as he walked to get a late-night sandwich. By his account, they called him racist and homophobic slurs and shouted “This is ‘MAGA’ country” – a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He said his assailants put a noose around his neck and poured what he thought was bleach on him.
Trump tweeted Thursday that Smollett insulted millions with his “racist and dangerous comments.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019
Smollett is expected to appear in court later in the day Thursday. He is facing up to three years in prison, and could be forced to pay for the cost of the investigation.
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- Jussie Smollett.: Courtesy of Chicago Police Department