Chicago, Feb 22 (IANS) A Chicago judge set a $100,000 bond for Jussie Smollett, as the “Empire” actor made his first court appearance.
The actor faces one felony count of filing a false police report. Police said that Smollett staged a January 29 attack, telling detectives that he was accosted by two men who used racial and homophobic slurs, reports variety.com.
Outside court, a Cook County prosecutor read from a bond proffer that detailed extensive evidence against Smollett, including text messages, phone records and witness statements.
Risa Lanier, the chief of the criminal prosecutions bureau, said that Smollett had been close friends with Abel Osundairo, one of the purported attackers, since the fall of 2017.
According to Lanier, Smollett texted to Osundairo on January 25, saying “might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?”
The two met and proposed staging the attack, according to prosecutors. Three days earlier, Smollett had received a threatening letter at Cinespace Studios in Chicago, where “Empire” is filmed. Police reported that Smollett sent the letter to himself, and federal investigators are still probing that aspect of the case.
Lanier said that Smollett wanted to stage the attack because he was disappointed in the studio’s response to the letter. Smollett recruited Abel’s older brother, Ola Osundairo, to participate in the attack.
Both men had worked on “Empire” Abel as a stand-in for Smollett’s character’s romantic interest on the show, and Ola as an extra.
Prosecutors say that Smollett gave the brothers a $100 bill to purchase supplies for the attack, including red hats, ski masks and rope. Smollett wanted to stage the attack so that it would be captured on surveillance cameras, according to the proffer.
He wrote a personal check to Abel Osundairo for $3500, which was deposited.
Smollett intended for the attack to take place at 10 p.m. on January 28, but his flight from New York to Chicago was delayed by four hours. According to the proffer, Smollett rescheduled the attack for 2 a.m.
Prosecutors say that Smollett was about four minutes late, and that the brothers waited at the designated location until he arrived. They allege that the staged attack took about 45 seconds, and was just outside of camera range.
The brothers ran away, and Smollett went home. When police responded, Smollett said the attackers poured bleach on him and put a rope around his neck, and said that this is “MAGA country”.
Prosecutors allege that Smollett stayed in touch with the two brothers, who left for Nigeria later that day. Phone records show that Abel and Smollett spoke for more than eight minutes on January 30.
If convicted, Smollett could face one to three years in prison, though he could also be sentenced to probation. He could also be ordered to repay the cost of the Chicago Police Department investigation.