Jussie Smollett has gone from victim to pariah.
On Thursday morning, the Empire actor was arrested and charged with falsifying a police report; the felony could land Smollett in prison for up to three years.
Police have subsequently released his mug shot.
Before we get into the damning accusations leveled at Smollett during a press conference held by Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson today, a quick rehashing of how we got here:
Smollett claimed to authorities on January 29 that he was assaulted by two white men around 2 a.m. on the streets of Chicago.
He said they yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him; screamed that he was in "MAGA country;" tied a rope around his neck; and poured bleah all over him.
The story made national headlines and was commented on by President Trump, Democratic candidates for President in 2020 and, of course, many celebrities from across Hollywood.
… about two weeks after the allegations were made, a pair of brothers from Nigeria were arrested by the police.
We quickly learned that these siblings worked as Smollett’s personal trainers and also as extras on Empire.
Questions were raised about whether Smollett staged the assault with these men, although the motive why was never made clear.
But Johnson addressed both the supposed motive and other aspects of the investigation/arrest in his press conference this morning. We’ve posted his quotes below in bold.
First, Johnson said he understands why this incident garnered such attention, but made an important general point at the outset of the media gathering:
Before I get started I look out into the crowd, I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention because that’s who really deserves the amount of attention that we are giving to this particular in distinct.
Johnson then went hard after Smollett for the way he exploited the legitimate problem of racism and homophobia for his own selfish purposes.
This announcement today recognizes that empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left hanging my head and asking why.
Why would anyone — especially an African-American man — use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? 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?
Johnson said Smollett was reportedly unsatisfied with his salary on Empire and paid $3,500 to the aforementioned siblings to stage the attack on himself.
A week prior to the fake beating, Smollett received a threatening letter (below), which Johnson said the star sent to himself, referring to this as a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language and adding:
This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.
The phony assault took place on the street, as Smollett claimed all along.
The two men, who were wearing gloves, punched Smollett "a little bit," Superintendent Johnson said.
However, the scratches and bruises on his face were likely self-inflicted, he continued.
Addressing concerns that this incident was given extra attention due to a celebrity being at the center of it, Johnson took extreme umbrage.
Any time a hate crime is reported in the city of Chicago, it gets the same attention. This didn’t get any special attention… We give every hate crime in this city the same amount of vigor because there is no place for hatred in this city.
No personnel nor any resources were pulled from homicide or shooting investigations to help with the Smollett case.
Based on phone records, Smollett talked to the Nigerian brothers about an hour before the staged attack.
When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off because we have to invest valuable resources.
Johnson said he hasn’t seen Smollett’s full interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, but he’s viewed snippets and is well aware of the case Jussie tried to make on his own behalf.
To be quite honest, it’s shameful because it painted this city that we all love and work hard in in a negative connotation.
Here are excerpts from that interview:
What can Smollett do to make this right? Nothing, but…
Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared, admitting what he did and then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of resources put into this.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also now issued a statement.
It reads as follows:
I want to thank all of the Chicago police officers who have worked on this case, and all of the private citizens and business owners who have stepped forward with information and video evidence to help us get to the bottom of what was reported as a hate crime.
All across Chicago, in every neighborhood, there are signs in front yards and in windows that read, "Hate Has No Home Here."
It is a sign that expresses our shared values and defines our great city. 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.
Our laws exist to reflect and defend those values, and hate crimes will never be tolerated. A single individual who put their perceived self-interest ahead of these shared principles will never trump Chicago’s collective spirit.