Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson appeared on Good Morning America to elaborate on the press conference he gave last week in regards to the Jussie Smollett case. On Thursday morning, Johnson confirmed that the police now believe Smollett staged the alleged hate crime that occurred in January, which involved two men shouting homophobic and racist comments before attacking Smollett with a rope and a chemical. Smollett, who was arrested Thursday morning, maintains his innocence, but Johnson says there's more to the case than meets the eye.
"There’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet, and does not support the version he gave," he said on GMA Monday morning. "There’s still a lot of physical evidence, video evidence and testimony that just simply does not support his version of what happened."
Original story published below on February 22.
In a matter of days, Empire actor Jussie Smollett went from victim to suspect in the case involving an alleged homophobic and racist attack in Chicago that the police now believe was staged by the actor. Back in January, Smollett claimed he was approached by two men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs before attacking him, pouring a chemical on him, and wrapping a rope around his neck.
However, once the two suspects were taken into custody, they were then released as the police shifted focus. Early Thursday morning, the Chicago Police Department confirmed that Smollett turned himself in for allegedly filing a false report and is currently in custody.
The case went from "hate crime" to shocking "hoax."
"We gave Mr. Smollett the benefit of the doubt all the way until that 47th hour of the 48 hours we could hold those two individuals because we just didn't have the total package to support that it was hoax," Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson told the press, referring to the two accused men whose answers to questioning shifted the focus of the case.
Smollett's reported motive was dissatisfaction with his Empire salary.
"The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary," Johnson continued. "So he concocted a story about being attacked."
A source told Huffington Post that Smollett earned $65,000 per episode on the most recent season of the FOX show.
First, Smollett reportedly sent a fake threatening letter.
Days before the attack, the Empire set received a letter with white powder "that relied on racial, homophobic, and political language" that Johnson says Smollett fabricated himself.
Smollett reportedly paid the men $3,500.
Phone records show that Smollett spoke to the alleged attackers shortly before the incident, and the men were seen via surveillance footage purchasing items used in the attack (ski mask, sunglasses, red hat, etc.) just one day prior. However, after police spoke to the two men, they were no longer considered suspects. Johnson announced on Thursday that Smollett paid $3,500 to stage the attack.
Smollett reportedly texted the men before the attack.
Shortly before the alleged attack, documents reveal Smollett sent one of the men a text that read "Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?" They then met up at Cinespace Studios to discuss the alleged plan.*
Smollett has denied playing a role in the attack.
Despite the damning words in the press conference, Smollett has not confessed to the accusations. In fact his legal team, lead by Los Angeles-based lawyer Mark Geragos, issued a statement of defense to CNN shortly before his arrest:
"Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
Smollett's lawyer did not immediately respond to Refinery29's request for comment.
*This story has been updated with additional reporting.