The Chicago story about an attack on the actor, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series “Empire,” took a number of flips until investigators found it was a sidewalk fake.
How did they discover it was a paid job with a piece of rope found around Smollet’s neck? The answer is that Chicago has lots and lots of cameras.
Dozens of private and city-owned security cameras played a major role in helping officials unravel the alleged hoax.
Officials say that investigators were suspicious of Smollett from the outset.
On the morning of Jan. 29, officers were dispatched to investigate a brutal racist, homophobic attack on Smollett. During the attack, he said, two men threw a rope around his neck, in the manner of a noose.
When the officers arrived at the actor’s apartment in Chicago’s swanky Streeterville neighborhood, about 40 minutes after the alleged beating, one detail caught their eye.
Chicago police officers observed that Smollett had a rope around his neck in the camera footage, captured on a police body camera. Seconds later, Smollett asked police to shut off the cameras.
The investigation into the puzzling case took nearly three weeks to publicly identify Smollett as a victim of a possible hate crime.
But that conclusion all changed after police arrested two U.S.-born brothers of Nigerian descent, Abel and Ola Osundairo, as they arrived in Chicago, Feb. 13, from a two-week trip overseas.
Abel, 25, was a close friend and personal trainer of Smollett, who provided the actor with the club drug Ecstasy, prosecutors say. Both brothers had worked on the set of “Empire.”
Smollett was eventually charged with disorderly conduct by filing a false police report.
Prosecutors say he falsely told police that the perpetrators flung racial and homophobic slurs as they pummeled him, poured a chemical substance on him and screamed “This is MAGA Country,” a reference to President Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
The Osundairo brothers initially resisted giving police much information. But as investigators prepared to charge them with a hate crime, prosecutors say, they came clean.
The brothers said Smollett paid them $3,500 to assist with a carefully choreographed attack, police and prosecutors said.
They also revealed that Smollett was involved in sending a threatening letter addressed to him at the Chicago studio where “Empire” is filmed. The letter arrived one week before the alleged hoax attack.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett was unsatisfied with his salary for the Fox television show and wanted to use the attack to raise his profile.
During the three weeks police were investigating the alleged hoax attack, Chicago endured at least 18 killings and dozens of shootings.
That’s reality, not fake.