When former Empire actor Jussie Smollett first claimed he had been involved in a hate crime, many across the nation sprung to his defense. However, it wasn’t long before inconsistencies regarding his story began to emerge and people began questioning how much truth there really was to his story.
Among the skeptics was former First Lady Michelle Obama’s aide, Tina Tchen. Tchen is a Chicago-based attorney, as well as the co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Due to her own legal background, it didn’t take her long to pick up on the alarm bells going off around Smollett and his story. She initially contacted Cook County, Illinois, state attorney Kim Foxx on February 1 to share her concerns, according to USA Today. Foxx acted quickly upon this new information.
At this time, Smollett was still being treated as a victim in the story, and law enforcement was struggling to put the pieces together. In recently released emails between Tchen and Foxx, Foxx says that she believed she was able to persuade Chicago’s police chief Eddie Johnson to turn to the FBI for assistance in the case.
“Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to Reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation.”
Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 felony charges for falsely reporting a crime. He says he was beaten by 2 men shouting racist and homophobic slurs. Prosecutors say he paid the men to stage the attack. He faces a maximum 48 years in prison. pic.twitter.com/2LFBMinkQA— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 14, 2019
While the FBI did offer the Chicago Police Department guidance during the initial investigation, the department ultimately decided it was best for them to lead it themselves. It wasn’t until police arrested brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, whom they initially believed to be suspects, that the entire landscape of the story began to change. The Osundairo brothers informed police that they had been hired by Smollett to stage the attack in an effort to bring him further attention from the media and boost his career. They were released shortly after.
Johnson later explained his reasoning for turning to the FBI for help in the case.
“I did speak to the FBI because they handle hate crimes. We had conversations about it, but at the end of the day it stayed where it should have, in my opinion.”
Just last week, a grand jury indicted Smollett last week on 16 felony counts. He has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report and staging his own hate crime. Smollett, who is an African-American actor who identifies as gay, formerly played a gay character on Empire. His initial story was that he was attacked while alone in downtown Chicago by two assailants who beat him and tied a rope around his neck.