by Brian Hayes
The apparent racial hoax by actor Jussie Smollett just went from local to Federal, with the FBI and Postal detectives closing in on him. And if he is found culpable, he could be facing close to 10 years in prison.
Federal law enforcement officials are investigating whether the actor-singer and co-star of the hit show Empire was involved in sending a threatening letter to himself at Fox’s Chicago studio before allegedly staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself last month, according to a report.
According to ABC News, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials are probing the matter after two Nigerian brothers said to have helped stage the attack accused Smollett of playing a role in sending the letter. Further, ABC News reports that the letter, mailed to the studio on January 22, is undergoing an FBI crime lab analysis.
The development follows reports that Smollett “concocted” the “staged” assault after the letter failed to garner a “bigger reaction.”
“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack,” a source told CBS 2’s Brad Edwards.
The letter reportedly contained a message which read “Die Black fag” and “white powder,” which was later determined to be crushed aspirin.
Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi confirmed to CNN that a HAZMAT team scrambled to Cinespace Studios, where the program was being shot, upon the letter’s discovery.
In addition to charges Smollett might face for possibly reporting a fake hate crime attack, which carry a prison term of up to 3 years, whoever sent that threatening letter to Smollett could reportedly face five years behind bars — plus an additional 2-3 years for Federal conspiracy charges.
According to The Blast‘s sources, the charge behind the mailed letter would qualify as “mailing threatening communication.” Here’s the language for such a violation (18 U.S. Code § 876. Mailing threatening communications), per Cornell Law School (emphasis added):
Whoever knowingly so deposits or causes to be delivered as aforesaid, any communication with or without a name or designating mark subscribed thereto, addressed to any other person and containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of the addressee or of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
According to CWB Chicago, the threatening letter addressed to Smollett was dropped in a mailbox in Chicago’s southwest suburbs on January 18; the letter reached the actor four days later.
Chicago police are seeking to re-question Smollett amid reports that he “orchestrated” the attack with Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, who were extras on Empire. “There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today,” Anna Kavanagh, a press representative for Smollett, said in a statement. “Any news reports suggesting otherwise are inaccurate. Smollett’s attorneys will keep an active dialogue going with Chicago police on his behalf. We have no further comment today.”
The news comes as the brothers and their attorney left court where they were expected to testify against Smollett in front of a grand jury.
Smollett, who is gay and African-American, told police that two masked individuals doused him with an unknown chemical substance as they hurled racist and anti-gay insults on January 29. The actor also told police that his assailants looped a thin rope around his neck and yelled “This is MAGA country!” before darting off.
As 24News reported earlier, Smollett’s actions were even more reprehensible than previously thought, as he was reportedly prepared to testify against two innocent White suspects he thought the police picked up — until being told it was his apparent co-conspirators instead.
But rather than fessing up, Smollett is doubling down.
In a statement to ABC News, Smollett’s lawyers said their client was “angered” and “further victimized” by reports that planned the alleged assault.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” Smollett’s lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, told ABC News. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
Smollett could get between one to three years in prison if he is found to have filed a false report with the Chicago Police, per Illinois State law.
Over the weekend, TMZ reported that Chicago law enforcement officials were suspicious of Smollett early on in their investigation:
The sources say there were red flags from the get-go. Cops were extremely suspicious when Jussie took them out to the area where he said he was attacked and pointed to an obscure camera saying how happy he was that the attack was on video. Turns out the camera was pointing in the wrong direction. Cops thought it was weird he knew the location of that camera.
And, there’s this. We’re told investigators didn’t believe the 2 alleged attackers screamed, “This is MAGA country,” because, “Not a single Trump supporter watches ‘Empire.'”
Meanwhile, the Fox Broadcasting Company, the network that airs Empire, will reportedly keep Smollett on as a series regular.
“Jussie was supposed to have 9 scenes and a big musical number in the second to the last episode — which is being shot now — but, 5 of his scenes have been cut, and his musical number has been 86’d,” according to TMZ.
Jussie is facing a world of trouble and potential jail time, all apparently well-deserved. America is asking: why won’t he just fess up and contain the damage?