Police arrest Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging his own attack
By Frederick H. Lowe
Actor Jussie Smollett (pictured left), who is black and gay, staged a hate crime, claimed he was mugged by two Trump supporters who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, threw bleach in his face, punched him, and tied a hangman’s noose around his neck. He orchestrated the drama because he was unhappy with his salary on “Empire,” a television show broadcast on the Fox Network, police charge.
Smollett surrendered to Chicago police at 5 a.m. Thursday morning after a grand jury charged him with felony disorderly conduct. He was held at Cook County Jail in Chicago and went before Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. Later that day, Judge Lyke set Smollett’s bond at $100,000. He called Smollett’s actions “despicable.” After posting $10,000 bail, Smollett returned to “Empire’s” set, Variety reported. Smollett apologized to “Empire’s” cast for the embarrassment he has caused. Fox later cut Smollett from the show’s two remaining episodes in the season.
If convicted, Smollett could get a one-to three-year contract, er, sentence, in a state prison for considerably less pay than he received on “Empire.” The New York Times reported that he earned $65,000 to $100,000 per episode.
Smollett’s arrest lent a powerful weapon to President Donald Trump and his supporters.
“What about MAGA (Make America Great Again) and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments! #MAGA,” Trump tweeted.
Smollett previously told Robin Roberts, host of “Good Morning America,” one of the alleged assailants used racist and homophobic slurs and shouted, “This MAGA country, (N-word).”
Smollett left supporters who expressed sympathy for him following the alleged attack with egg on their faces.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who are booth seeking the Democratic nomination for president, initially supported Smollett but have since adjusted their thinking.
Rev. Al Sharpton initially called the attack on Smollett “despicable and dangerous,” but as evidence emerged revealing the actor staged the attack for publicity, Sharpton said Smollett should face “accountability to the maximum.”
Others weren’t so quick to believe the police. Film director Ava Duvernay cautioned people not to put faith in the police because Chicago police covered up the murder of Laquan McDonald by former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.
This has been a bad week in the Chicago area for black men. The news has been filled with stories about R. Kelly sexually assaulting underage girls, and about Gary Martin, the gunman who shot to death five people in an Aurora, Illinois, plant before police killed him, and now about Smollett, staging his own attack.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called Smollett’s arrest a slap in the face to the black community. A visibly angry Johnson charged that Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger caused by racism to promote his own career.
Looking out into an audience filled with reporters and television camera crews, Johnson said he wished that actual victims of gun violence in this city received as much [media] attention as Smollett has.
Smollett, a 36-year-old Chicago native, claimed he was attacked January 19 in Streeterville, an upper crust neighborhood on the city’s Gold Coast.
Chicago Police Commander Edward Wodnicki said police interviewed Smollett at Northwestern Hospital. After determining that Smollett’s injuries were minor and that he had no broken bones, police began to canvas the area where the alleged attack took place. Dispatched officers interviewed more than 100 people. They also studied film from police cams and private cameras in the area.
Police got a lead when they arrested brothers Ola and Abel Osundario of Nigeria after they returned to Chicago on February 13.
The two brothers told police Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the crime. He also paid them an additional $100 to purchase red MAGA caps and rope.
He orchestrated the attack after mailing a fake threatening letter to the set of “Empire.” That letter did not get the attention Smollett had hoped.
Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, Smollett’s lawyers, pledged an aggressive defense of their client. “Like any citizen, Mr. Smollett deserves the presumption of innocence,” Henderson and Pugh said.
Superintendent Johnson said Smollett needs to apologize to the city.