The Jussie Smollett investigation recently made a major turn when new reports said the two Nigerian brothers arrested for the alleged assault against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett were paid to stage the attack. Authorities no longer list the two brothers as suspects in the case. Production sources told TMZ on Feb. 19 that Smollett’s screen time was cut significantly.
The actor could face time in prison for potentially filing a false police report. While authorities have yet to release a new statement, it comes as similar high-profile hate crime hoaxes plague the Trump era.
1. Vandalized Indiana Church
After President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, a church in Brown County, Indiana, which recognizes same-sex marriage, was allegedly vandalized with “Heil Trump,” swastikas, and an anti-gay slur. It was later revealed that the incident—which generated widespread media coverage and stoked fear in the community at St. David’s Episcopal Church—was a hoax.
The church’s gay organ player George Nathaniel Stang was the perpetrator. Stang faced a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief for vandalization.
2. Brooklyn Synagogue and Fires
Trump supporters took the blame for a series of hate crimes including Nazi vandalism at a Brooklyn synagogue and fires in a Jewish community—just days after the Pittsburgh massacre. The perpetrator was actually an African-American man named James Polite who worked for Christine Quinn, a New York City council speaker at the time. Polite faced four counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime and making graffiti.
3. Mississippi Black Church Fire
A historic black church in Greenville, Mississippi, was set on fire about one week before the 2016 presidential election and was widely dubbed a hate crime when the words “Vote Trump” were found spray-painted on the outside of the charred building.
An investigation soon revealed that the perpetrator was not a Trump supporter but an African-American member of the church named Andrew McClinton. He was charged with first-degree arson of a place of worship.
4. Muslim Student Assault Hoax
Also in 2016, a Muslim student at the University of Louisiana claimed two white Trump supporters physically attacked her and stole her hijab—the story went viral. But the Lafayette Police Department revealed later that the student had made up the whole story.
The young woman’s identity was not revealed and the university said they could not comment on if the student would face disciplinary action, citing federal privacy law.
5. Long Island Swastika Case
Trump’s name came up again in relation to a string of anti-Semitic graffiti across Nassau Community College in Long Island. The perpetrator was actually 20-year-old student Jasskirat Saini.
Authorities said Saini drew 110 swastikas—along with phrases such as “KKK,” and “Heil Hitler”—as a reaction to what he believed were insults from the Jewish community. The student’s graffiti spree started before Election Day in 2016.
6. NYC Subway ‘Attack’
A Muslim woman lied that she had been attacked by three white Trump supporters in New York City while on the subway. She claimed the men had tried to rip off her hijab while screaming “Trump! Trump!” in December 2016.
Yasmin Seweid, 18, was charged for filing a false report and for obstructing governmental administration, the police said, both misdemeanor charges. She was a student at Baruch College.
7. Fake Note and Slashed Tire
A 19-year-old student Adwoa Lewis lied to police in September 2018 about a hateful note on her car and a slashed tire. Lewis said a group of teens yelled “Trump 2016” after confronting her and told her she “didn’t belong here.”
Authorities found that she had faked the whole incident. Lewis admitted she had written the note herself and placed it in her vehicle. She was charged for faking a punishable written statement.
8. Graffiti on Campus
In November 2018, students at Goucher College demanded social justice training and safe spaces after racist, Nazi, and KKK graffiti were found on campus. Someone even wrote the names of black students. Trump supporters were blamed.
Authorities charged a biracial student at Goucher College near Baltimore after he had confessed to the race hoax.
Fynn Arthur, 21, wrote down the phone numbers of three black students, including himself, as well as a swastika on a campus bathroom stall in December 2018 to fake a racially motivated threat. At the time, a number of students at the college demanded social justice training and safe spaces as a response to the now debunked incident. Arthur, an African-American himself, later confessed to the crimes and faces two counts of malicious destruction of property.