Chicago Police Superintendent, Eddie Johnson, told ‘Good Morning America’ host, Robin Roberts, that there are numerous pieces of new evidence that “Empire” star Jussie Smollett staged his own hate crime. However, he did add, “Let me just put this out there first and foremost right now that he still has the presumption of innocence until he has his day in court.”
Smollett was charged last week with felony disorderly conduct amid allegations of filing a false police report and turned himself in at central booking shortly after. Smollett is facing up to three years in prison, if convicted.
However, Johnson insisted that Chicago PD was not out to get Smollett, as they initially sympathized with his plight, despite his story allegedly having holes. He said, “There were some questions [about the alleged hate crime Smollett initially reported], but there’s always questions when people are describing incidents to us. We didn’t have the facts to support him being involved in it until that 47th hour.”
The “47th hour” is when brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo became “cooperating witnesses” while they were briefly detained by police. Johnson noted that authorities “gathered up a lot of evidence and facts before then.” The superintendent stated, “It’s not the Chicago police saying [the attack was staged], it’s the evidence, the facts and the witnesses that are saying it.”
Johnson admitted, “The Chicago Police Department has its issues with racism and excessive force, and I’m acutely aware of that. But we didn’t earn this particular incident, and I refuse to let us take that shot if we have evidence of the contrary… [Filing a false report] is a dangerous thing to do to a city and to a police department. Something like this can be really damaging. We made a lot of progress in the last three years in terms of race relations… I just hope people don’t judge other people that are victims of these types of crimes.” He added, “There are real victims of hate crimes, and I just hope that people don’t treat them with skepticism.”
“[Smollett] still has a presumption of innocence and he still has his opportunity in court if he chooses to go that route,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet that doesn’t support the version that he gave us. There’s still a lot of video evidence, physical evidence, and testimony that doesn’t support what he said happened.”
Chicago police also accused Smollett of sending himself hate mail to the “Empire” set, which the FBI is still actively investigating. The letter was reportedly laced with an unknown white powder and “MAGA” messages. If convicted of mail fraud, Smollett could face up to 10 years in jail.