Jussie Smollett arrested

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Brian Ries, CNN

Updated 5:25 p.m. ET, February 21, 2019
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10:26 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

Smollett staged attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary," police say

Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett staged the alleged attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."

Smollett first "attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language," an apparent reference to a letter sent to the "Empire" set in the days before the attack.

"When that didn't work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process," Johnson said. "And why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked."

10:20 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

Police say Smollett paid $3,500 to stage the attack

Jussie Smollett was reportedly unsatisfied with his salary on "Empire" and paid $3,500 to stage the attack on himself, according to police superintendent Eddie Johnson.

He added that Smollett send a "false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language."

Johnson said Smollett was treated "as a victim" until evidence pointed in a different direction.

"This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve," Johnson said.
10:19 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

Police: Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger" of racism

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Jussie Smollett " took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."

"Bogus police reports cause real harm," he said.

Here's how he introduced the case at today's press briefing:

"This announcement today recognizes that empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I'm left hanging my head and asking why."

He continued: "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?"

10:34 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

Police superintendent: "I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention"

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson opened today's news briefing about Jussie Smollett's arrest by pointing out the man-hours spent on this case.

"Before I get started I look out into the crowd, I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention because that's who really deserves the amount of attention that we are giving to this particular in distinct," Johnson said.

Some background: The city has struggled to contain violence in almost every major category of crime since 2016.

Chicago saw a significant drop in murders and gun violence for the second year in a row, according to police. Across the city, there were 100 fewer murders than in 2017, when 650 people were killed. Overall crime is down 10% since 2016, the year Chicago recorded its highest murder rate in two decades, with 762 people killed.

Chicago Police credit the drop in violence partly to "investments in data-driven policing and the creation of strategic decision support centers in 20 of the city's 22 police districts," according to a Chicago police news release.

Watch more:

10:11 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

What Smollett said about the alleged attack in his first TV interview

From CNN's Lisa Respers France

Jussie Smollett told "Good Morning America" last week he was "forever changed" by the incident and was "pissed off" by both the attack and the doubt that has been cast over his story.

In an interview with Robin Roberts that aired on Thursday, Smollett said one of the attackers said, "'This MAGA country, n****r' and he punched me in the face so I punched his a** back."

"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more," Smollett said. "And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now."

He also said he respects victims of hate crimes too much to lie about what happened.

The star theorized that he had been targeted because of his vocal criticism against President Trump and his administration, telling Roberts, "I come really hard against 45."

10:02 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

SOON: Police hold briefing on Smollett case

Chicago police will hold a news briefing at 10 a.m. ET on the latest developments surrounding Jussie Smollett's case.

Smollett was arrested today on suspicion of filing a false report after claiming he was attacked by two men and was the victim of a hate.

The "Empire" star was taken into custody around 6 a.m. ET, police said, ahead of a 2:30 p.m. bail hearing.

Ahead of the briefing, police released Smollett's mugshot:

9:41 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

The 2 men seen on surveillance video before the attack had a previous affiliation with Smollett

From CNN's Faith Karimi and Brad Parks

Law enforcement sources tell CNN that police now believe Jussie Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate an assault on him.

Surveillance video from Jan. 28 obtained from a Chicago-area beauty supply store appears to show the two men connected to the incident purchasing a ski mask, sunglasses, a red hat and other items the day before the alleged assault.

They paid for the items in cash, according to the owner, who did not want to be identified.

The two men questioned by police — identified as brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo — were initially arrested on Feb. 13 but released without charges after police cited the discovery of "new evidence." They've met with police and prosecutors at a Chicago courthouse, police spokesman Tom Ahern said.

The two are no longer suspects at this time, Chicago police have said. The brothers' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, told reporters Wednesday that her clients had not accepted a plea deal or immunity. Police sources said the brothers are cooperating with law enforcement.

"You don't need immunity when you have the truth, " she said.

In a joint statement issued to CNN affiliate WBBM, the men said: "We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens."

One of the men has appeared on "Empire," Guglielmi said. A police source also told CNN the men had a previous affiliation with Smollett but did not provide additional details.

8:36 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

Police believe Smollett paid 2 brothers to orchestrate the assault, sources say

From CNN's Faith Karimi and Brad Parks

Jussie Smollett has stood by his initial claims that he was attacked.

He received an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians immediately after he reported the alleged attack. But the backlash and doubters grew louder, with social media users questioning his claims of the attack especially after police said they could not find video of the incident from surveillance cameras in the area.

Police now believe Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate an assault on him, two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN this week.

By Wednesday, Chicago police said they were looking into the incident as a possible hoax. The announcement came the same day the Cook County grand jury met to review evidence of the incident.

8:22 a.m. ET, February 21, 2019

Jussie Smollett has denied he played a role in the attack

Attorneys for Jussie Smollett released a statement last night, saying the actor has denied playing a role in his attack.

"Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett 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," his attorneys said in a statement.

"Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."