Police Claim Jussie Smollett Staged Alleged Attack Because He Was Dissatisfied With His 'Empire' Salary
By Antoinette Bueno
Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images
In a press conference on Thursday morning, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department Eddie T. Johnson claimed that Jussie Smollett staged his alleged attack to promote his career.
Johnson addressed reporters in Chicago, and alleged the actor paid $3,500 to stage an attack because he was "dissatisfied" with his Empire salary. Johnson also alleged that Smollett concocted the threatening letter he received prior to the alleged attack that contained homophobic and racist language, and when that "didn't work," went ahead with the attack.
"As far as we can tell, the scratching and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted," Johnson alleged. " ... Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."
"How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face?" he continued. "Bogus police reports cause real harm. They cause harm to legitimate victims who are in need of support by police and by investigators as well as the citizens in the city. I'm offended by what's happened and I'm also angry."
Johnson said that Smollett was treated as a victim throughout the investigation until police received evidence that led detectives in another direction.
"I continue to pray for this troubled young man who resorted to both drastic and illegal tactics to gain attention," he said.
A source close to production tells ET that Smollett's Empire salary is significantly higher than initial reports of $65,000 an episode, and that the actors all got significant raises early in the show’s life when it became a big hit. If Smollett was unhappy with his salary, it was not commonly known, the source shares, and to the source's knowledge, he did not voice any complaints about his salary on Empire.
The source also notes that there is still a lot of support and love for Smollett on the show.
“People are wondering what happened to presumed innocence,” the source says.
Meanwhile, in a statement to ET, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said they were "evaluating the situation."
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process," the statement reads. "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
Smollett was taken into custody early Thursday morning and faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report. The 36-year-old actor has maintained he was a victim and did not orchestrate the Jan. 29 attack. In a statement to ET, Smollett's attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, 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. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
CBS News reported on Saturday that Abel and Ola Osundairo -- brothers of Nigerian descent who were previously arrested last week and then released without charges -- claimed to police after their home was raided that Smollett knows them and further alleged that the actor "paid them to participate in the alleged attack." Smollett has vehemently denied this accusation through his lawyers. According to the brothers' attorney, Ola worked as an extra on Empire in season two, while Abel was Smollett's personal trainer.