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Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to stage attack because of 'dissatisfaction with his salary'

Police said today that the Empire actor also sent himself racist and homophobic hate mail.

File photo of Smollett.
File photo of Smollett.
Image: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File

Updated Feb 21st 2019, 3:26 PM

POLICE IN CHICAGO have said TV actor Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to stage his own racist and homophobic attack because he was dissatisfied with his salary.

Smollett, a gay and black actor who stars in the Fox network drama Empire, is facing criminal charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.

In a press conference this afternoon, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett had first sent himself a hate mail letter, “that relied on racial, homophobic and political language”. 

He then paid $3,500 to stage the attack. Johnson said Smollett did this because he was “dissatisfied with his salary”.

The actor had claimed that on 29 January, two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago while yelling racist and homophobic slurs. He also initially told police that the attackers poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck.

The alleged incident initially seemed to serve as an example of growing intolerance in the US and led to an outpouring of support for the actor.

But over the following weeks, the 36-year-old went from victim to suspect.

Detectives grew suspicious of the account after interrogating two men who reportedly revealed that they were hired to stage the incident.

Chicago TV station WBBM said the men, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, claimed Smollett was unhappy that a threatening letter he had earlier received at the Chicago studios where Empire is filmed had not received enough attention.

Last night Chicago police confirmed felony criminal charges had been approved by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. 

Superintendent Johnson today said Chicago police do not tolerate “hate in our city, whether that hate is based on an individual’s sexual orientation, race or anything else”.

“I’m offended by what’s happened and I’m also angry,” he said. 

He pointed out that the “phony attack” received national attention for weeks.

“Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor. ”

 Smollett’s lawyers promised to conduct their own investigation and mount “an aggressive defence”.

“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,” lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement.

Comments have been closed for legal reasons

Includes reporting from - © AFP 2019

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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