US actor Jussie Smollett is accused of reporting a fake racist and homophobic attack to police. Police allege that the "Empire" actor used the staged attack to "promote his career."
"Empire" TV series actor Jussie Smollett turned himself in to police on Thursday to face accusations that he falsified a police report that claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago, police said.
Smollett, a gay and black actor, told Chicago police last month that two masked men beat him, looped a rope around his neck, poured an unknown substance on him and hurled racist and anti-gay slurs, including "this is MAGA country" — a reference to US President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett also sent a threatening racist and homophobic letter to himself at the Twentieth Century Fox studio before the attack.
A Judge set Smollett's bond at $100,000 (€88,228).
Smollett used attack 'to promote career'
Johnson alleged that Smollett's report was a publicity stunt, which he carried out because he was unhappy with his salary.
Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," said Johnson, adding that bogus police reports harm "every legitimate victim who's in need of support" and every resident of the city.
Twentieth Century Fox, one of the production companies behind "Empire," said it was "evaluating the situation" regarding the charges against Smollett and "considering our options."
Smollett paid attackers
Detectives became suspicious about Smollett's story after speaking to two suspects — two brothers who are also black — who said Smollett paid them $3,500 (€3,088) to carry out the attack.
Detective Commander Edward Wodnicki said at a news conference Thursday that after questioning the brothers for nearly two days last week, they were released and investigators no longer viewed them as suspects.
Smollett, whose case had been taken up by several political opponents of Donald Trump, came in for personal criticism from the president on Twitter after Thursday's news broke.
"What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA," Trump asked the actor.
law/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)