The team of former Empire actor Jussie Smollett claims an ambiguous text message he sent to one of his suspected attackers prior to his purported assault was about illegal herbal steroids, not his alleged hate hoax.
The Chicago Police Department last week released more than 1,000 files from the investigation into Smollett’s claim he was attacked by two men, including video footage that for the first time shows the Empire actor with a thin, white rope wrapped around his neck that he told detectives was a noose. Among the files were texts between Smollett and bodybuilder Abel Osundairo, who police believed was compensated to carry out the attack with his brother.
“Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?” Smollett wrote to Osundairo in one of the texts.
Those close to Smollett told TMZ the message concerned steroids that help with reducing belly fat, rather than the attack. The actor purportedly sought Osundairo to pick up the steroids during his visit to Nigeria.
The files’ release came days after a judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the decision by Cook County prosecutors to dismiss all charges against actor Smollett, who was accused of lying to the police by claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago in January.
In a ruling that leaves open the possibility that Smollett could be charged again, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin suggested that the county’s state’s attorney, Kim Foxx, mishandled the Smollett case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself.
Foxx had been in contact with a relative of the actor and had been approached by former first lady Michelle Obama’s one-time chief of staff on behalf of Smollett’s family, and she explained at the time that she was recusing herself to avoid “even the perception of a conflict” of interest.
The Chicago Police Department, which has never disguised its anger over the decision to drop the charges, vowed to assist the special prosecutor.
“We stand firmly behind the work of detectives in investigating the fabricated incident reported by Jussie Smollett & #ChicagoPolice will fully cooperate with the court appointed special prosecutor,” department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted.
We stand firmly behind the work of detectives in investigating the fabricated incident reported by Jussie Smollett & #ChicagoPolice will fully cooperate with the court appointed special prosecutor. pic.twitter.com/bCDF0NYfzP
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) June 21, 2019
Fox Entertainment announced in April that Smollett would not appear in season six of Empire, which is its last season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.