Jussie Smollett reportedly has evidence to counter claims by law enforcement, which allege that he paid a pair of friends $3,500 to stage a fake attack against him.
The Empire actor stands accused of filing a fake police report related to the January incident, in which he claimed a pair of masked men attacked him late at night on a Chicago street while shouting racist and homophobic slurs. The story later came under scrutiny, and police ultimately claimed that Smollett had faked the attack against himself and lied to police about it.
But the Empire actor now has evidence to counter the charges against him, the New York Post reported. Though police said that Smollett paid the Nigerian brothers $3,500 to launch the attack against him, Smollett reportedly claims that the check was actually written for a “5 week Nutrition/Workout program (Don’t Go).” As TMZ reported on Sunday, that was written in the memo line of the check that was dated January 23, just a few days before the attack.
The report added that Smollett wanted to lose 10 pounds for the music video for his song, “Don’t Go,” and planned to work with the brothers, who work out in the gym at his luxury apartment building in Chicago. Smollett reportedly has other evidence to back up that he was working on a nutrition program, including text messages about food plans.
It was not clear if Smollett had other evidence to point to his innocence, as police reportedly had other evidence — aside from the personal check — to connect Smollett to the attack, including phone records. Police have also raided the apartment of the two brothers initially identified as suspects in the attack, and are seeking evidence to see if Smollett was involved in the fabrication of a threatening letter sent to him before the attack.
Smollett has not come forward with evidence that reportedly counters the police account of his attack, but lawyers for the actor said they plan to mount an aggressive defense.
Jussie Smollett has maintained his innocence, even reportedly going to the set of Empire to tell fellow cast members that he did not orchestrate the attack. But the actor could still face more trouble, with federal investigators (reportedly) continuing to investigate whether the actor also faked a threatening letter that was sent to him in the days before the attack. Mail fraud is a federal offense and could lead to a prison term of five years or more.