“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is accused of staging a hate crime against himself because he was “dissatisfied” over his salary—which totals over $1 million per season, according to reports.
Smollett turned himself into the police early Feb. 21 and was charged with a felony for filing a fake police report. According to Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Smollett allegedly “concocted a story about being attacked” because “he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
Press Briefing: Jussie Smollet is under arrest and in custody of detectives. At 9am at #ChicagoPolice Headquarters, Supt Eddie Johnson, Commander of Area Central Detectives Edward Wodnicki will brief reporters on the investigation prior to the defendants appearance in court. pic.twitter.com/9PSv8Ojec2
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 21, 2019
“This announcement recognizes that ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said during a press conference.
Sources told HuffPost that Smollett was paid $65,000 per episode in the latest season of the popular television show. On average, there are 18 episodes of “Empire” per season, which means he would be earning a total of $1.17 million per season.
“Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim,” the police superintendent said. “I’m offended by what’s happened and I’m also angry. This publicity stunt is a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
Smollett originally claimed he was attacked in Chicago around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, in freezing temperatures by two white men who shouted slurs at him and said “this is MAGA country,” an apparent reference to Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again.”
Two Nigerian-American brothers who were extras on “Empire,” Abel and Ola Osundairo, were arrested on suspicion of attacking Smollett but were released after reportedly telling the police that Smollett orchestrated the attack.
According to reports, the Osundairo brothers told police that they were paid to stage the attack. They reportedly told detectives that Smollett paid them $3,500 before they left for Nigeria on the day the attack was reported. They were promised an additional $500 upon their return to the United States, sources told CBS Chicago.
Smollett allegedly rehearsed the attack with the brothers several days before Jan. 29 and gave the brothers money to buy the rope, ski masks, and other gear. Surveillance footage obtained by CBS showed the brothers buying the gear.
Police said the trajectory of the investigation changed after receiving this information and on Feb. 20, Smollett was named as a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a fake police report, which is a class 4 felony. He was called in to present evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury.
A class 4 felony under Illinois sentencing law carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
The 36-year-old actor is also believed to have orchestrated the sending of a letter to himself, which arrived at the “Empire” studio in Chicago earlier in January. The letter featured a crude drawing of a figure hanging from a noose and letters cut out from a magazine spelling out a threat.
Smollett appeared in court on Feb. 21 and was released from custody shortly before 4 p.m. after posting a $100,000 bond, reported ABC 7. He is due back in court on March 14 where he is expected to enter a plea.
Twentieth Century Fox Television said in a statement after the felony charge that executives are “evaluating the situation and considering our options.”
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options,” the company stated.
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.” – STATEMENT FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX TELEVISION AND FOX ENTERTAINMENT
— 20th Century Fox TV (@20centuryfoxTV) February 21, 2019
A day before, the company said in another statement, “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.”
“Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.” – STATEMENT FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX TELEVISION AND FOX ENTERTAINMENT
— 20th Century Fox TV (@20centuryfoxTV) February 20, 2019
According to the Census Bureau, the average median household income in the United States was $61,372 in 2017.
Reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to the report