Despite the Chicago Police Department denying earlier reports that they thought Empire actor Jussie Smollett staged his own hate crime victimization, they’ve changed their minds and have now come to the conclusion that it was probably staged. Not even Lee Daniels, the master of soap opera fuckery, could come up with a messier storyline. Lee probably should’ve given Jussie a job in the writer’s room.
Here’s what a source and a rep for the Chicago PD tells Deadline Hollywood:
“The new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident,” a law enforcement source close to the situation told Deadline today.
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” a Chicago PD statement late Saturday declared. “We’ve reached out to the ‘Empire’ cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
In a statement released last night, Jussie’s lawyers said that he feels that he’s being “further victimized” by the accusation. (via CNN):
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
CNN reports that “two law enforcement sources” with “knowledge of the investigation” told them that the Chicago cops think Jussie paid the two Nigerians, who were in custody, $3,000 “to orchestrate an assault on him.” They’ve reportedly got receipts. Literally.
The sources told CNN there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago.
“Yes, at the moment, I am,” Michael Monico, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois’ Northern District, told WGN’s “The Roe Conn Show” on Thursday.
After Nigerian brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo were released from police custody on Friday without being charged with anything, police cited “new evidence” in the case and said they had “additional investigative work” to do. The Osundairos’ lawyer hinted that the “new evidence” was supplied during police interviews with Ola and Abel.
As for Jussie’s alleged motivation that he was trying to get attention so he wouldn’t get written off of Empire (which, wow, that’s a silly way to go about things if true), Empire co-creator Danny Strong tweeted on Thursday that Jamal Lyon will remain a mainstay on the show.
There is 0% truth that @JussieSmollett was going to be written off of Empire. This rumor is totally false. He is the third lead and one of the most beloved characters on the show. Writing him off the show has NEVER even been discussed.
— Danny Strong (@Dannystrong) February 15, 2019
I’m no historian, but this may be the first time when people besides raging assholes hope that a hate crime did go down and Jussie is still telling the truth, because if not, this is going to hurt more than just Jussie’s career and life.