Federal law enforcement officials are investigating whether actor-singer Jussie Smollett was involved in sending a threatening letter to himself at Empire’s Chicago studio before allegedly staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself last month, according to a report.
According to ABC News, FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials are probing the matter after two Nigerian brothers said to have helped stage the attack accused Smollett of playing a role in sending the letter. Further, ABC News reports that the letter, mailed to the studio on January 22, is undergoing an FBI crime lab analysis.
— RCInvestigations (@RCInvestigates) February 19, 2019
The development follows reports that Smollett “concocted” the “staged” assault after the letter failed to garner a “bigger reaction.”
“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack,” a source told CBS 2’s Brad Edwards.
The letter reportedly contained a message which read “Die Black fag” and “white powder,” which was later determined to be crushed aspirin.
Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi confirmed to CNN that a HAZMAT team scrambled to Cinespace Studios, where the program was being shot, upon the letter’s discovery.
Chicago police are seeking to re-question Smollett amid reports that he “orchestrated” the attack with Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, who were extras on Empire. “There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today,” Anna Kavanagh, a press representative for Smollett, 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.”
Smollett, who is gay and African-American, told police that two masked individuals doused him with an unknown chemical substance as they hurled racist and anti-gay insults on January 29. The actor also told police that his assailants looped a thin rope around his neck and yelled “This is MAGA country!” before darting off.
In a statement to ABC News, Smollett’s lawyers said their client was “angered” and “further victimized” by reports that planned 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.
The statement came after CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reported that at least one of the brothers bought the rope at Craft Beaver hardware store the weekend of January 25th. The rope was purchased at the direction of Smollett, who paid $3,500 and promised an additional $500 later, according to De Mar.
Smollett could get between one to three years in prison if he is found to have filed a false report with the Chicago Police, per Illinois State law.
Meanwhile, the Fox Broadcasting Company, the network that airs Empire, will reportedly keep Smollett on as a series regular.
“Jussie was supposed to have 9 scenes and a big musical number in the second to the last episode — which is being shot now — but, 5 of his scenes have been cut, and his musical number has been 86’d,” according to TMZ.