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Jussie Smollett paid brothers $3,500 to stage attack, police say

Police express anger over Jussie Smollett
Chicago police express anger over Jussie Smollett case 08:15

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage a violent attack on him, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. 

Smollett has been accused of faking a hate crime after his story of being attacked by racist assailants unraveled. The actor has been charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, which is a felony in Illinois. He turned himself in to police early Thursday morning and appeared in court later in the day where a judge set his bond at $100,000 and ordered him to turn in his passport.

"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Johnson said. "I'm left hanging my head and asking why."

Police said Smollett, who is black and gay, lied to them last month when he claimed two masked white men shouting racist and homophobic slurs beat him up in the middle of the night near his apartment building. Two of Smollett's acquaintances, Ola and Abel Osundairo, told investigators the actor directed and paid them to stage that attack.

Police obtained phone records showing that Smollett spoke with the men about an hour before and after the attack, Johnson said. He added that Smollett spoke with the men while they were in Nigeria for the two weeks immediately following the attack.

The brothers were arrested upon their return to the U.S. They started cooperating with police in the 47th hour of the 48-hour window where police can hold suspects without filing charges.

"When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly it pissed everybody off," Johnson said. He said police were treating Smollett like a victim until then.

The brothers have not been charged. Johnson said they wore gloves during the attack and that Smollett's scratches and bruises afterward were most likely self-inflicted.

Jussie Smollett in custody Feb. 21, 2019. Chicago Police Department

Smollett allegedly first sent himself a racist and homophobic letter, and when that didn't work, he staged the attack. "This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary," Johnson said.

Johnson said that the brothers staged the attack for the money and that one of the brothers worked on the same Fox drama as Smollett. In a statement, Fox said, "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."

TNT said it was holding off on airing an upcoming episode of its comic rap competition show "Drop the Mic" featuring Smollett. "We are pulling the episode in the interest of not being exploitative of an incredibly sensitive situation," a spokesperson said in a statement.

Detective Commander Edward Wodnicki said police met with Smollett's attorneys and arranged for the actor to turn himself in Thursday. He did so at 5 a.m.

Chicago police chief on Jussie Smollett arrest 04:59

Johnson said Smollett hasn't made any statement to police since his arrest. His lawyers, who have been joined by famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, vowed an aggressive defense.

In a statement, they said, "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."

Smollett previously said that his attackers yelled, "This is MAGA country," an apparent reference to President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan. The president reacted to that late Thursday morning.

"What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA," Mr. Trump said to Smollett on Twitter.

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