Chicago’s police chief, who has publicly shown his unfeigned indignation over the Jussie Smollett case, said Monday that the case against Smollett has much more to it than just what has been reported in the media.
Smollett, a gay black actor who starred on the show “Empire,” claimed he was assaulted by two men who insulted him with racial and homophobic slurs before putting a noose around his neck. Police found no evidence of the attack, and last week charged Smollett with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.
“Let me tell, you, Robin, there’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet that does not support the version he gave,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson during an interview on “Good Morning America.”
“There’s still a lot of physical evidence, video evidence and testimony that just simply doesn’t support his version of what happened,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that throughout the investigation, police gave Smollett victim status.
“I refused to let CPD characterize him as a suspect unless we had concrete evidence,” Johnson said. “The entire time that we investigated the incident he was treated like a victim.”
The course of the investigation changed when police questioned Nigerian brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who were in the 47th hour of the 48 hours they could be held when they admitted they were paid to stage the attack.
“We worked very closely with their lawyer, and (she) went in there to talk to them, and whatever she said to them apparently got through to them – to just tell the truth about what happened,” Johnson said. “And that’s what they decided to do.”
“We didn’t have the facts to support him being involved in it until that 47th hour, and it’s important for people to recognize that it’s not the Chicago police saying he did something, it’s the evidence, the facts and the witnesses that are saying this,” Johnson said.
The brothers “said that he paid them $3,500 with a check . . . to carry out this incident,” Johnson said. He revealed last week that Smollett staged the attack to boost his status and salary on the show.
Johnson said once the facts were clear, he had to follow the truth.
“The city of Chicago has its issues, the Chicago Police Department has its issues with racism and excessive force and all of that, and I’m acutely aware of that. But we didn’t earn this particular incident and I just refuse to let us have to take that shot if I have evidence to the contrary. So I just want people to understand that it’s a damaging thing to do to a city and to a police department, so it’s my responsibility to ensure that the record gets set straight,” he said.
Smollett has maintained his innocence and his attorneys released a statement saying he “feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
When police charged Smollett with staging the attack, Johnson was visibly angry over the ordeal that Chicago had been put through after it received national condemnation from commentators who believed Smollett’s account of the Jan. 29 incident.
“It’s just despicable,” he said then, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“It makes you wonder what’s going on in someone’s mind to be able to do something like that. … I’m left hanging my head and asking why?” Johnson said. “Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?”
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