Federal investigators are reportedly looking into whether Jussie Smollett may have sent a threatening letter to himself, a charge that if true could lead to serious prison time for the Empire actor now accused of faking an attack against himself.
Smollett turned from a potential victim to a suspect in the January incident where he claimed a pair of men shouted racist and homophobic slurs while they beat him. The attack later came under scrutiny from Chicago police, who discovered that two men seen on surveillance video were friends of the actor. Smollett is now suspected of planning the attack and concocting a scheme to lie and blame it on masked Trump supporters.
As the New York Post reported, a new investigation is looking into whether a threatening letter Smollett received just days before the alleged attack could have also been a hoax. The investigation is being led by the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Services, which are looking into claims from Nigerian brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo that Smollett helped to put together the letter.
Unnamed federal officials told ABC News that the note has been sent to an FBI crime lab for analysis. The envelope that contained the letter reportedly had the word “MAGA” written in large red letters. Smollett claimed that the attackers yelled “This is MAGA country!” during the attack, a reference to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The latest allegations could be the most serious for Smollett, with mail fraud being a federal offense that could carry punishment of up to five years or more.
— Complex (@Complex) February 19, 2019
Update tonight from Chicago: the original Smollett threat letter may be more important to the case than originally thought, Postal Inspectors now reportedly involved. https://t.co/7fUmM9a6Ey
— Emily Zanotti (@emzanotti) February 19, 2019
The allegations have led to a major backlash against Jussie Smollett, with many celebrities and politicians who initially stood behind him after the allegations first surfaced now demanding that Smollett address the allegations. The actor has maintained that he did not concoct a hoax and was indeed a victim of a hate attack, but he has also hired a criminal defense attorney.
A new report from TMZ claims that Smollett’s scenes from Empire have been almost entirely cut out, with the show’s writers rushing to erase his storylines and fill in the gaps with other characters. The report cited production sources who said that the series creators have completely changed nine scenes that featured Smollett, and have also cut his role out of an Empire musical that was in early stages of production. Though Empire producers had initially thrown cold water on a report that he was being written out of the show, Smollet’s role on the Fox drama going forward now appears to be up in the air.