Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson confirmed in a press conference Thursday that Empire actor Jussie Smollett orchestrated an alleged assault on himself last month.
“Mr. Smollett is the one that orchestrated this crime,” Johnson told reporters, adding that “he has to be accountable for what he did.”
"Mr. Smollett is the one that orchestrated this crime," police say. "He has to be accountable for what he did."
Smollett maintains his innocence. pic.twitter.com/TuRvyKbBqp
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 21, 2019
Before the attack, Smollett also sent a threatening letter that targeted himself to the studio in Chicago where Empire is shot, Johnson said.
Smollett turned himself in and was arrested earlier Thursday to face accusations that he filed a false police report when he told authorities he was attacked in Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck, police said.
“He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference.
“This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve,” he later added.
The FBI has been investigating the letter sent before the attack. Johnson would not say whether Smollett could face charges for that.
In less than a month, Smollett changed from being the seemingly sympathetic victim of a hate crime to being accused of fabricating the entire thing. The 36-year-old was charged Wednesday with felony disorderly conduct, a charge that could bring up to three years in prison and force the actor, who is black and gay, to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report of a Jan. 29 beating.
Johnson maintained Thursday that police treated Smollett as a victim until two brothers they had taken into custody for questioning last week admitted to helping him stage the attack. He said it was the brothers who also explained Smollett’s motive to detectives. Authorities have a check for $3,500 that Smollett paid the brothers, he said.
Smollett, who plays a gay character on the hit Fox television show Empire, said he was attacked as he was walking home from a downtown Subway sandwich shop. He said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled “This is MAGA country” — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” — before fleeing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.