Lawyers for “Empire” star Jussie Smollett accused Chicago police of carrying out an “organized law enforcement spectacle” against Smollett hours after the police superintendent claimed the actor staged a hate crime to boost his career.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the statement read. “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election.”
At a press conference earlier Thursday, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson accused Smollett of paying two brothers $3,500 to stage an attack. Johnson also said that Smollett sent himself a threatening letter with homophobic and racial slurs before organizing the attack.
Smollett, 36, has been at the center of nationwide controversy after he filed a police report claiming he had been attacked by two masked men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him in Chicago on Jan. 29. During the attack, Smollett told police, the two men beat him up, poured a chemical substance on him and wrapped a rope around his neck.
Smollett also said his attackers yelled “MAGA country” during the alleged assault, apparently referencing President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”
Police initially investigated the alleged attack as a hate crime but later turned their attention to Smollett as a suspect after reviewing security camera footage and phone, bank and taxi records. Police also interviewed two suspects who were seen in surveillance footage recorded at the same of the alleged attack.
Smollet faces a felony charge for disorderly conduct in falsifying a police report, which may carry sentencing of up to three years in prison, a spokesman for the Chicago police tweeted Thursday.
Smollett’s attorneys maintained the actor’s innocence and accused police of not offering due process to their client.
“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing,” their statement read.
His lawyers did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for comment.
As Smollett’s account of the attack began to draw skepticism, the actor told “Good Morning America” he was “pissed off” that people were doubting him.
“It became a thing of like, ‘Oh it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth,’” the “Empire” actor said during the interview.
20th Century Fox said in a statement that it has launched an internal investigation into Smollett’s account of being attacked.