An American television star has been arrested and charged after allegedly staging a racist, anti-gay attack on himself because he was unhappy about his salary and wanted to promote his career, Chicago's police say.
At press conference hours after the Empire actor was charged, Chicago Police Department Chief Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson abhorred him as a "troubled young man" who has "taken advantage" of racism to further his career.
Johnson also said that Smollett sent himself a threatening letter with homophobic and racial slurs before organizing the attack.
Now, however, police believe that Smollett staged the whole scene and allegedly instructed two brothers to carry out the attack against him by paying them $3,500.
Police have accused Smollett of hiring two brothers to be part of the alleged attack in downtown Chicago last month, in which he claimed a noose had been slipped around his neck.
Smollett's attorneys released a statement saying that their client "enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked".
If convicted, Smollett could be sentenced to three years in prison and made to pay for the cost of the police investigation.
The two appeared before a grand jury on Wednesday to where they came clean, before Smollett was charged, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
"We intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense", his lawyers added.
He drove them home, wrote a check to one of the brothers for $3,500 and flew to NY, prosecutors said.
Supt Johnson said that he had told at least one of the brothers that he was "dissatisfied" with his salary from Fox. But critics immediately questioned the likelihood of violent Trump supporters roaming around the streets of strongly-Democratic Chicago, suspicions that intensified after police failed to find video of the attack among hundreds of hours of footage from cameras near where the actor says it happened, and Smollett only gave police "limited and redacted" phone records. One of the two men had appeared with Smollett on "Empire", according to police and their lawyer.
Fox has issued several statements in support of the actor, and he resumed work on "Empire" Thursday despite reports that the network was considering suspending him.
In court, Smollett wore a black jacket and stared at the prosecutor as she detailed the allegations against him.
The men - Ola and Abel Osundairo - had left the USA following the alleged attack and were held for almost 48 hours after they returned last week.
You can read the entire statement on the developing story below.
On Thursday, he tweeted to Smollett: "What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and risky comments!?"
"I'm also concerned about what this means moving forward for hate crimes", he said.
The Good Morning Britain host wrote in his Mail Online column: "Today, Smollett is revealed to be the most ugly, reprehensible, disgusting, snivelling little liar in America".
February 1 - In a statement, Smollett defended his account of the alleged attack as completely truthful, saying he was working with the authorities and that he had been "100 percent factual and consistent on every level".
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