- Chicago Police laid out their case against Jussie Smollet at a press conference Thursday after his arrest.
- They said the ‘Empire’ actor staged a homophobic attack as a “publicity stunt” to increase his profile.
- Supt. Eddie Johnson said that Smollett had manipulated the “hurt and suffering” of others, and may make it more difficult for genuine victims.
- “Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbol of a noose to make false accusations?” Johnson asked.
- Smollett has not commented since being charged. His lawyers say he “enjoys the presumption of innocence.”
Chicago Police slammed actor Jussie Smollett after they arrested him on a charge of falsifying a police report about what he said was a racist and homophobic attack against him.
A spokesman for the police force – which initially investigated the attack as a genuine hate crime – said Smollett staged the attack as a “publicity stunt,” motivated by unhappiness with how much he was earning.
At a briefing on Thursday morning, Supt. Eddie Johnson called Smollett’s alleged actions a slap in the face to the city of Chicago. He said Smollett tried to take advantage of discrimination faced by African-Americans and LGBT people to gain publicity.
Johnson said that he was “offended” and “angry,” and said that Smollett manipulated the “hurt and suffering” to increase his profile and because he was unhappy with his salary.
“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett beacuse he was dissatisfied with his salary,” Johnson said.
He said that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
You can watch the briefing here:
Smollett, who is black and gay, and plays a gay character on the Fox show ‘Empire’. He said he was attacked by two masked men who beat him and made derogatory comments and put a noose around his neck.
Johnson said that Smollett was treated as a victim for much of the investigation. Police became suspicious, he said, when they found inconsistencies in his story that led them to the conclusion that he had falsified the police report.
Smollett was arrested at 5 a.m. Thursday morning when he handed himself in to Chicago police. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted of falsifying a police report.
Smollett has not commented since being charged, and Johnson said that Smollett had not yet made a statement while in custody.
“Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” Johnson asked at Thursday’s briefing.
“How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?”
He said that Smollett had managed to “slap everyone in his city in the face by making these false claims.”
Johnson said that Smollet had committed a “publicity stunt” and that it is “a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
Johnson admitted that Chicago has “problems” but said the incident “put the national spotlight on Chicago” for something that is “untrue.”
Smollett’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement emailed to INSIDER after he was charged: “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 defence.”
Concerned for future cases
Johnson said that he was concerned that future allegations of hate crimes will now be met with suspicion.
“Bogus police reports cause real harm,” he said. “They do harm to every legitmate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators, as well as the citizens of the city.”
Smollett will appear in court later this afternoon.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement on Thursday: “Chicago’s message to the world is that no matter where you come from, who you love, or how you pray you will always have a home here.
I want to thank all of the @Chicago_Police officers who worked on the #JussieSmollett case & all of the private citizens & business owners who have stepped forward with information & video evidence to help us get to the bottom of what was reported as a hate crime. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/V0DB6RdGza
— Archive: Mayor Rahm Emanuel (@MayorRahm) February 21, 2019
“Our laws exist to reflect and defend those values, and hate crimes will never be tolerated,” he said. “A single individual who put their percieved self-interest ahead of those shared principles will never trump Chicago’s collective spirit.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.