Actor Jussie Smollett staged a hate crime attack against himself when a racist letter sent to the “Empire” set didn’t get a “bigger reaction,” according to a Chicago TV station.
WBBM reports that a source with direct knowlege of the investigation is quoted as saying, “When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack.”
Smollett reported that he was attacked on January 29th by two men who shouted homophobic insults at him, poured a chemical on him, and put a rope around his neck.
Smollett allegedly received a letter containing a white powder on January 22nd, which was mailed to Cinespace Studios in Chicago, where the FOX television program “Empire” is filmed.
The letter prompted a HAZMAT response, but Chicago Police later confirmed the white substance to be crushed aspirin.
The FBI is now handling the investigation into the letter.
The note was made using letters cut out from a magazine to form words.
The two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, were identified as suspects in the case and their apartment was searched.
There, according to WBBM, police logged that they had seized a “piece of paper/writing,” a magazine, and a wallet containing a book of stamps.
Also recovered from the brothers’ home were bottles of bleach and a rope.
Sources close to the investigation told WBBM that the Smollett allegedly paid for the rope, which was purchased at a hardware store the weekend of the 25th.
The brothers were acquainted with Smollett, one of whom served as his personal trainer.
The brothers told detectives that Smollett paid them $3,500 and rehearsed the attack days prior.
One brother allegedly held the rope and poured bleach while the other, in a red hat, shouted homophobic slurs at the actor, and put a rope around his neck.
The attackers allegedly shouted “This is MAGA country,” in reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
On February 14th, Smollett appeared on Good Morning America and said his attackers “called me a f—–t, they called me a n—-r,” he said. “There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on some racist sundae.”
After the attack, the brothers reportedly fled to Nigeria. They were detained by police upon their return to Chicago last week. Police latere released them without charges.
In a joint statement Monday, the brothers said “We are not racist. We are not homophobic and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens.”
Police say they’ve requested a follow-up interview with Smollett.
Smollett’s lawyers say the actor feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.