From Victim to Suspect: The Unraveling of Jussie Smollett

By Mavis Heasley

“Empire” actor, Jussie Smollett, is facing a felony charge for allegedly filing a false police report claiming that he was a victim of a hate crime in Chicago on January 29. According to Smollett, two white men made racist and homophobic comments towards him, a black and openly gay man. They said, “This is MAGA country, n****r,” then proceeded to pour a chemical substance on him and put a noose around his neck. This prompted many activists, politicians and prominent figures to express support for Smollett on social media, many using the alleged attack as an opportunity to attack President Trump.

The support accompanied criticism as skepticism began running rampant across news outlets and social media sites. Many found the alleged attack questionable, some believing liberals to be milking Smollett’s story for anti-Trump propaganda. As the investigation into Smollett’s accusation continued, skeptics and critics found more solid ground than those backing Smollett. The attackers were revealed to be brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, black men who acted alongside Smollett in “Empire,” and were taken into custody on February 13. According to the Osundairo brothers, Smollett paid each of them $3,500 to stage the attack, as well as provided $100 for the attack supplies, and also claimed they rehearsed the incident with Smollett; both Ola and Abel have been released from custody without charges for their cooperation. The initial outpour of support for Smollett minimized as information implicating Smollett has been released.

What little public support Smollett had left was lost when police announced that this was not Smollett’s first attempt at falsifying a hate crime. According to Chicago police, Smollett staged the attack because he was disappointed in Fox news’ coverage of a “racist and homophobic” letter he sent to himself. This letter contained cutout letters that read “Smollett, Jussie, you will die black ***,” a return address of “MAGA,” and a powdered substance which was revealed to be crushed ibuprofen. After seeing Fox’s coverage of the letter, Smollett proceeded to text Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo the following message: “Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up to talk face-to-face?” Osundairo and Smollett met up, drove in Smollett’s car while the suspect discussed his disappointment in the media coverage of his letter and began to plot the staged attack.


On February 21, Jussie Smollett turned himself in; he was arrested on the charge of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. Smollett’s bond was set at $100,000, which he posted, and was ordered to surrender his passport.