It’s possible “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett didn’t fully think through the alleged hate crime hoax he is accused of orchestrating on January 29.
According to Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson, Smollett used a (very traceable) check to pay the two brothers he allegedly hired to stage the “hate crime.”
After Smollett was arrested on Thursday morning, Johnson spoke to the press about the highly-publicized case. Mr. Johnson alleged that the actor’s wounds were “self-inflicted,” Smollett was motivated to pull off the fake crime to “promote his career,” he sent a threateningly letter predating the staged attack to himself, and he paid two men $3,500 to help him pull it off in the form of a check, reports NBC’s Andrew Blankstein.
“To be quite honest, it’s shameful. It painted this city that we all love and work hard in in a negative connotation. To insinuate and to stage a hate crime of that nature — when he knew, as a celebrity, it would get a lot of attention — it’s despicable,” Johnson told reporters of Smollett at the presser.
Smollett surrendered himself to police at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning. The actor was officially charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report by the Cook County state attorney’s office on Wednesday evening, The Daily Wire reported. “The charge is a Class 4 felony in Illinois and carries a potential of one to three years in prison.”
The actor claimed he was targeted in the streets of downtown Chicago by two white Trump supporters for being gay and black on January 29. According to Smollett, the two men physically assaulted him and called him a “n*****” and a “f*****.” He also claimed they tied a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and told him he was in “MAGA country” — a reference to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
During a softball “Good Morning America” interview with Robin Roberts, Smollett said he had received a threatening letter containing suspicious white powder later identified as crushed Tylenol about two weeks before the alleged attack. The letter, which Police Chief Johnson said was mailed by Smollett to himself, had the acronym “MAGA” written in the return address space and contained a drawing of a curly-haired stick-figure being hanged with a noose by another stick-figure. The letter also said, “You will die black f***,” in cutout letters from magazines.
According to sources at The Blast, the charge behind the mailed letter would qualify as “mailing threatening communication.” Here’s the language for such a violation (18 U.S. Code § 876. Mailing threatening communications), per Cornell Law School (emphasis added):
Whoever knowingly so deposits or causes to be delivered as aforesaid, any communication with or without a name or designating mark subscribed thereto, addressed to any other person and containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of the addressee or of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.