The investigation into the alleged MAGA-backed hate crime against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett has taken some wild turns over the past few days. Mr. Smollett is no longer considered a “victim” by the Chicago Police Department: reports suggest the actor paid two Nigerian brothers to carry out the apparently staged attack on him in downtown Chicago on January 29 after a threatening letter, notably with a “MAGA” reference, he received in the mail did not get enough attention.
In addition to charges Smollett might face for possibly reporting a fake hate crime attack, whoever sent that threatening letter to Smollett could reportedly face five years behind bars.
According to The Blast‘s sources, 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.
According to CWB Chicago, the threatening letter addressed to Smollett was dropped in a mailbox in Chicago’s southwest suburbs on January 18; the letter reached the actor four days later.
“The envelope was addressed in childlike scrawl to Empire TV star Jussie Smollett at Cinespace Studios, a West Side production facility that the Fox program calls home. ‘MAGA’ — the acronym for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ — was sloppily written in the return address space,” reports CWB Chicago, adding: “Something about the envelope must have raised concerns. Smollett would later tell police that he and Empire’s executive producer donned gloves before they opened it and exposed themselves to a threat letter covered in white powder. Police logged the time as 2:30 p.m.”
There was white powder inside the letter — later identified as crushed Tylenol — and 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.
On January 29, Smollett claimed he was attacked by two white Trump supporters yelling about “MAGA country” and calling him a “n*****” and a “f*****.” The actor claimed he was also kicked in the ribs by his attackers and, notably, they put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him.
“Headed by the FBI’s Chicago Field Office, the terroristic threat investigation is being assisted by one of America’s oldest and most underestimated law enforcement agencies: The United States Postal Inspection Service,” CWB reported. “Whoever sent the letter to Smollett may have considered the mail to be an untraceable way to deliver a message. They’d be mistaken.”
The Daily Mail reports that filing a false police report in Illinois is a Class 4 felony: “That means that anyone found guilty could face between one and three years in prison.”
“By law, the crime of disorderly conduct is committed in Illinois by anyone who ‘transmits or causes to be transmitted in any manner to any peace officer, public officer or public employee a report to the effect that an offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed, knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for believing that the offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed,’” the outlet notes.