“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett paid two brothers to stage an attack on him last month because he was “dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago Police Department superintendent Eddie Johnson said Thursday, shortly after Smollett was arrested for allegedly filing a false police report. Fewer than two hours after appearing before a judge, the 36-year-old star was released on $100,000 bond.
Slamming the actor’s actions as “shameful,” Johnson told reporters at a press conference that Smollett orchestrated the confrontation by paying $3,500 to the men to attack him on the morning of Jan. 29.
Johnson characterized the situation as a “publicity stunt” by Smollett to advance his career, and condemned the actor for making Chicago Police dedicate resources to his case that could’ve been used for other matters.
“First, Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language,” Johnson said. “When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process.”
Smollett has been earning $65,000 per episode of “Empire,” according to HuffPost, which cited a source.
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed earlier Thursday that Smollett was in the custody of detectives, and a mugshot was released shortly thereafter.
Guglielmi had said Wednesday night that detectives would make contact with Smollett’s legal team to “negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest.” He was charged Wednesday with felony disorderly conduct.
If convicted, Smollett could receive a sentence ranging from probation to more than one year in prison.
Smollett has claimed to police that two men jumped him around 2 a.m on Jan. 29 as he walked to his Chicago apartment from a Subway restaurant. He said they beat him, placed a rope around his neck, doused him with bleach and hurled homophobic and racist slurs at him.
The actor discussed the attack on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” claiming in an interview recorded on Feb. 12 that one of the men said “MAGA country” — an apparent reference to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — before punching him in the face.
Johnson said Thursday that scratches and bruises that appeared on Smollett’s face were likely self-inflicted. Police have not seen video of the confrontation, but Johnson says he believes Smollett likely wanted the incident to be captured on camera.
Smollett’s lawyers said in a statement before his arrest, “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.”
Police initially said the case was being investigated as a possible hate crime. Smollett, 36, came out as gay in 2015.
Trump condemned Smollett on Thursday, tweeting, “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?”
Smollett was indicted Wednesday night after investigators said his status changed from alleged victim to suspect. New video also surfaced reportedly showing the brothers linked to the assault, Olabingo (Ola) Osundairo and Abimbola (Abel) Osundairo, buying ski masks and a red hat.
Police took the brothers into custody for questioning last week and released them without charges.
A day after Fox said Smollett wasn’t being written off of “Empire,” the media company released a statement following Thursday’s police press conference saying it was “evaluating the situation” and “considering our options.”