Jussie Smollett 'Took Advantage Of The Pain And Anger Of Racism,' Police Say The Empire actor has been released on bail after being arrested on charges of making a false police report. Officials say he paid two men to fake an attack on him to "further his own public profile."
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Jussie Smollett 'Took Advantage Of The Pain And Anger Of Racism,' Police Say

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Jussie Smollett 'Took Advantage Of The Pain And Anger Of Racism,' Police Say

Jussie Smollett 'Took Advantage Of The Pain And Anger Of Racism,' Police Say

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Chicago police say actor Jussie Smollett, the star of the Fox TV series "Empire," faked the hate crime he reported late last month. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called the move a publicity stunt.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

EDDIE JOHNSON: This announcement today recognizes that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I'm left hanging my head and asking, why? Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?

MARTIN: Jussie Smollett is due in a Chicago courtroom this afternoon. Joining us now, NPR's Colin Dwyer, who's been following developments here.

Colin, how did Chicago police determine this, that Smollett faked what was a very serious, allegedly very gruesome hate crime?

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Very serious - and as you heard, the police superintendent came out very strong against Smollett and came out very strong against the media as well and how they've covered this. In the course of this presser, they actually went into a lot of detail about their investigation. They talked about how they first identified two men on a security camera. They traced his path using surveillance footage, using community tips. And that path that they traced took them to a cab first and then on foot and then to a ride-share and then to the airport.

They say that the two men actually flew to Nigeria. But it turns out that they bought a round trip. So, actually, the police and authorities were there waiting for them, the two men, when they arrived back in Chicago on February 13.

MARTIN: And, essentially, police say that Smollett paid these two men - one of whom he had a personal connection with because one of them worked on the show "Empire" - that he paid them to perpetrate this fake hate crime.

DWYER: That's right. And, apparently, they didn't even really determine this until the 47th hour of the 48-hour detainment that they legally had them for. They had been speaking with these two brothers for, virtually, the entirety of that time. And it was only very, very toward the end that the two brothers ultimately came forward and acknowledged this fact.

MARTIN: I mean, it's - this is shocking for so many people, primarily because Jussie Smollett has been such an important voice for the black LGBT community. His character on "Empire" is a black, gay man. He himself is a black, gay man. I mean, do we know why he did this?

DWYER: We don't. The police have a theory. They say that Smollett simply wanted to boost his profile. He wanted to get a higher salary - is what Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. Now, the...

MARTIN: He talked about the salary because he was suggesting that Smollett was trying to raise his profile to boost...

DWYER: That's right.

MARTIN: ...His cred, basically, among the television producers for "Empire." But, you know, at the same time, the police made sure to affirm in this press conference that they took him seriously up until the very last minute, right?

DWYER: That's right. They said from the very beginning, they treated him as a victim. And it was only very recently that things began to change.

MARTIN: I think we've got...

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JOHNSON: Smollett was treated as a victim throughout this investigation, until we received evidence that led detectives in another direction.

MARTIN: So, I mean, at this point, what happens now? He's expected in a court later today, right?

DWYER: That's right. So the state's attorney's office has approved charges of disorderly conduct against Smollett. Those charges could carry up to three years in prison, if he happens to be convicted. And that appears to be where we're going from here. Smollett himself has not responded since this presser came out. But before that, his lawyers vowed to mount an aggressive defense of their client. So I suppose we'll just see where things go from here.

MARTIN: It's interesting to note - at the end of the press conference, the superintendent of police was asked what justice looked like. And this is what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JOHNSON: Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared, admitting what he did and then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this.

MARTIN: He says he wants an apology for what he calls a smear on the city.

DWYER: Not only a smear but he says that it was, actually, a slap in the face of the city.

MARTIN: NPR's Colin Dwyer for us. Thanks so much, Colin.

DWYER: Thank you, Rachel.

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