Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct and filling a false police report when he said he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck, a police official said.
The sequence of events reads like the plot of a television show: A man stages his own attack and rehearses it beforehand, making sure there’s a surveillance camera nearby to record it.
But prosecutors say it really happened. They allege “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett hired two men to orchestrate what appeared to be a racist, homophobic attack on himself in Chicago on January 29.
Smollett hired brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, and paid them $3,500 to stage an attack, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said Thursday.
Smollett reported the attack to police who investigated it as a possible hate crime. But as the story unfolded over the weeks, its numerous twists and turns culminated with Smollett’s arrest Thursday on suspicion of filing a false police report.
On Friday, the executive producers of “Empire” said that while they were waiting for the legal process to play out, they would remove Smollett’s character, Jamal, from the season’s final two episodes.
Text messages and secret meetings
The alleged plot’s electronic trail dates to January 25 when Smollett texted Abimbola Osundairo and said, “Might need your help on the low. You around to talk face to face?” prosecutors alleged.
He gave the brothers directions on the staged attack and told them to put a noose around his neck and shout “‘Empire’ fa***t” and “‘Empire’ n***er,” as well as to make a reference to “Make America Great Again,” prosecutors allege.
Smollett took the brothers to near the site of the purported attack, which had a surveillance camera on the corner, prosecutors said.
The actor told detectives two men attacked him near the lower entrance of a Loews hotel in Chicago
After laying out the plan and rehearsing it, prosecutors said, Smollett gave the brothers a $100 bill to buy clothing and rope for a noose.
The staged attack went ahead as planned, with the brothers mildly punching Smollett with gloved hands, according to Johnson, the police superintendent.
“As far as we can tell, the scratching and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted,” Johnson said.
Phone records indicate Smollett talked to the brothers about an hour before the alleged attack, an hour afterward, and after they left the country for Nigeria, authorities said.
Police initially treated the matter as a hate crime, but they could not find video of the incident from surveillance cameras in the area.
“I believe Mr. Smollett wanted it on camera,” Johnson said. “But unfortunately that particular camera wasn’t pointed in that direction.”