CHICAGO: Jussie Smollett, upset by his salary and seeking publicity, staged a fake assault a week after writing himself a threatening letter, Chicago police said Thursday after the "Empire" actor surrendered to face a felony charge of filing a false police report.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett had taken advantage of the pain and anger of racism, draining resources that could have been used to investigate other crimes for which people were actually suffering.
At an afternoon bail hearing, a judge set Smollett's bond at $100,000. He was released late Thursday afternoon after posting bond and returned to the "Empire" set in Chicago.
In Thursday's proceedings, Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. said he found the investigators' account of the incident disturbing, particularly the assertion that Smollett had used a rope around his neck to heighten outrage.
"If these allegations are true, I find them utterly outrageous," the judge said. "Especially the violent, despicable use of a noose, which conjures such evil in our country."
One of Smollett's lawyers, Jack Prior, agreed that the police account was outrageous but said it also was not true.
Police say Smollett hired two brothers to carry out the assault and paid them $3,500. They have a copy of the check used to pay them, police said.
In a document prepared for the bail hearing, prosecutors said they had video of the brothers at the scene, text messages they shared with Smollett and their testimony as to how Smollett had recruited them for the plan. He even had them visit the scene of what investigators contend was the fake attack on an earlier night to prepare, prosecutors said.
The actor, who surrendered Thursday morning, has insisted the attack occurred and that he has not done anything wrong.
At their news conference and the bail hearing, the police officials and prosecutors unveiled much of what they had uncovered about the reported attack. Smollett, 36, who is black and openly gay, had told police that at roughly 2 am January 29, two masked men attacked him on the 300 block of Lower East North Water Street in downtown Chicago. He said his assailants directed homophobic and racial slurs at him, put a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him. Smollett said the assault occurred after he went to pick up food.