Empire actor Jussie Smollett “concocted” a “staged attacked” against himself after receiving a racist letter addressed to him failed to evoke a “bigger reaction,” a source tells CBS 2.
“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack,” one source told CBS 2’s Brad Edwards, who reported “other sources corroborated that information.”
A letter contained “white powder” was delivered on January 22 to a Chicago set where Empire was filming in the days leading up to the alleged staged assault. In a statement to CNN, Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi confirmed a HAZMAT team scrambled to Cinespace Studios, where the program was being shot, after the letter was found.
The substance was found to be powdered aspirin.
The FBI is probing the matter, said Guglielmi.
CBS 2’s report comes after a press representative for Smollett said that the actor will not meet with police Monday as accusations swirl that he “orchestrated” the attack with two Nigerian brothers who were extras on Empire. “There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today,” Crisis manager Anna Kavanagh said in a statement. “Any news reports suggesting otherwise are inaccurate. Smollett’s attorneys will keep an active dialogue going with Chicago police on his behalf. We have no further comment today.”
On Sunday, Chicago police said they requested a follow-up interview with Smollett after receiving “new evidence” in their interrogations of the brothers, Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, but would not comment on reports of the attack being staged. “We’re not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we’ve gotten,” Guglielmi said.
Smollett, who is gay and black, told police that two masked men hurled racist and anti-gay slurs at him and doused him with an unknown chemical substance as he walked home from a sandwich shop at around 2:00 a.m. local time. The actor said his assailants placed a thin rope around his neck and shouted “This is MAGA country!” before running away.
In a statement to ABC News, attorneys for Smollett said their client was “angered” and “further victimized” by accusations that orchestrated the alleged assault.
“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,” Smollett’s lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, told ABC News. “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.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” they 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.
CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reported on Saturday evening that at least one of the brothers picked up the rope at Craft Beaver hardware store the weekend of January 25th. The rope was purchased at the direction of Smollett, reported De Mar, added. Further, the brothers reportedly were compensated $3,500 and promised an additional $500 later.
Smollett could get between one to three years in prison if he is found to have filed a false report with the Chicago Police regarding his alleged attack, according to Illinois State law.