Police in Chicago say a U.S. actor who claimed he was attacked and beaten by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs staged the incident because he was because he was dissatisfied with his salary and wanted to promote his career.
Chicago police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi issued a statement announcing the arrest of actor Jussie Smollett, charging him with felony disorderly conduct for making a false police report.
Police say he turned himself into police around 5 am local time.
The 36-year-old black openly gay actor on the U.S. television drama “Empire” created a social media storm last month when he told police on Jan. 29 that two apparent supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump had struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him after he visited a Chicago sandwich shop.
Smollet received an outpouring of support from celebrities and even lawmakers, but police immediately found inconsistences in the actor’s story.
As part of an three-week investigation, police say they examined security cameras located throughout the area where the alleged attack occurred. Police brought in two brothers for questioning but they were released after two days, with police saying they were no longer suspects. Police said Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.
At a news conference Thursday Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters its believed Smollet faked the attack as a publicity stunt because he was dissatisfied with his salary.
Johnson did not hide his contempt for Smollet’s alleged actions:
“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 hate and suffering associated with that symbol and see and opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own profile? How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?,” he said.
Johnson called the actor’s “publicity stunt” a scar that Chicago didn’t deserve.He said absolute justice would be for Smollet to admit what he did and apologize the city of Chicago.
Smollet has not yet entered a plea. The charge against him carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, though Former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg told the Associated press news agency judges rarely throw defendants in prison for making false reports, opting instead to place them on probation.