"Empire" star Jussie Smollett may be, as he claims, the victim of a horrific racist and homophobic attack in Chicago last month, but the evidence is now nearly overwhelming that he was not. While the Chicago Police Department is hesitant to cast even the slightest doubt on Smollett's story out of fear of backlash, an objective look at the facts of the case reveals no possible conclusion other than that Smollett is lying about what happened to him.
He claimed that at about 2:00 am on January 29th, two white men in ski masks recognized him as he exited a Subway restaurant near his apartment.
"You're that f***** n***** from Empire," Smollett says they shouted at him as they beat him, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck before vanishing into the night while yelling "This is MAGA country!" in reference to President Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again."
Almost immediately, it became clear that Smollett's story was questionable at best. The morning of January 29th was the coldest in Chicago in at least 25 years, with temperatures dropping to -25 degrees and a wind chill that dipped as low as -50. Two men were really out in that weather, apparently waiting for Smollett while armed with bleach and a noose? And how exactly did they know Smollett would be at that Subway at that hour? Smollett said he had just flown into Chicago a short time earlier and decided to grab a bite to eat a short time later. How could his attackers have known that he was even in Chicago, let alone when his flight arrived?
Unlikely though it may have been, it certainly is possible that the two attackers would have waited in the deadly cold for Smollett to arrive in Chicago and emerge from the Subway where they found him, but it defies belief that neither the attack nor the attackers were ever captured on any of the surveillance cameras from any of the businesses in the area. In fact, Chicago Police have been able to use those cameras to trace Smollett's entire journey from the restaurant to his apartment, save for about 60 seconds. The attack may well have occurred in those 60 seconds, but how come the attackers don't show up on any of the surveillance video at all?
In fact, it seems, no one except Smollett is seen on that video at the approximate time of the attack. Police released a still image from a surveillance camera showing two "persons of interest," but they are seen walking away from the alleged crime scene on the other side of the street long before Smollett says the attack occurred.
No one else of note is ever seen on surveillance video. No one is ever seen walking up to Smollett before the 60 second gap in surveillance video and no one is ever seen walking away from him afterwards.
Smollett's description of the attack itself, too, has raised eyebrows for its obvious logical inconsistencies. He claims to have "fought the f*** back" against two men, but he also says he was both on the phone with his manager and holding a Subway bag. Presumably, this means that both of his hands were occupied as he fought off the two attackers. He may well have been able to kick them or maybe swung his hands holding the phone and sandwich bag, but it is extremely suspicious that he dropped neither during what he claimed was an extremely violent encounter.
Even stranger, he claims that he was still on the phone with his manager when the attack ended. Why didn't he hang up and dial 911 immediately? Why didn't he have his manager call 911 if he was too injured to do so himself?
Instead, he calmly walked home and past a security guard at his building (to whom he didn't mention a thing about the attack) and then called police about 45 minutes later. When officers arrived, Smollett still had the noose around his neck. It's odd that he didn't take it off immediately after his attackers put it on him, but perhaps understandable that he wanted to preserve the evidence of the attack. This, however, presents a logical contradiction: If Smollett was so concerned about preserving evidence and bringing his attackers to justice that he kept their noose around his neck for nearly an hour, why didn't he call 911 immediately, when police would be able to respond to the scene and possibly arrest the men who had just beaten him?
When officers arrived, Smollett said nothing about the attackers yelling "This is MAGA country!" and only added that detail when TMZ.com reported he had said it. Confused investigators read TMZ's story and called Smollett, who only then confirmed that the attackers had yelled that. Why leave out such a significant detail in his initial report?
And why initially did Smollett claim that he had suffered broken ribs and had been hospitalized? Officers noted that he only seemed to have suffered a small cut to the face? During a concert in Chicago a few days later, Smollett told the crowd that his ribs were bruised (not broken) and that he went to see a doctor after the attack (and was not sent to the hospital). The fact that Smollett embellished the severity of his injuries points to a possible propensity for stretching the truth and is reason to distrust his account of the supposed attack.
The Chicago Police Department has been at least skeptical (if not outright distrustful) of Smollett's account, as Superintendent Eddie Johnson even went so far as to say in a statement a week later that "Smollett is still being treated as a victim in this case, but if the investigation does reveal he made a false report, he will be held accountable."
That statement doesn't get released if Superintendent Johnson doesn't at least have a very strong suspicion that Smollett made a false report.
Yet perhaps the strongest evidence that Smollett is lying about what happened to him lies in the phone records that he provided to police this week. Investigators wanted him to turn over his phone so that they could verify that he was, as he claimed, on the line with his manager at the time of the attack. Smollett refused, which is not in itself suspicious since he said he didn't want to be without it for several hours as police analyzed it and, as a famous television actor, was likely suspicious of anyone digging for dirt on him or any of his famous friends and coworkers.
After more than two weeks of stonewalling, though, Smollett finally turned over phone records...from an hour before the alleged attack.
“We are very appreciative of the victim’s cooperation," Chicago Police said in a news release. "However, the records provided do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation, as they were limited and heavily redacted. Detectives may be following up with the victim to request additional data to corroborate the investigative timeline.”
Why would Smollett release what he obviously knew were useless phone records unless there was something in the records during the correct hour that he didn't want police to see? Why, when given a chance to corroborate a key detail of his story, did he decline? Smollett has to know that a sizable percentage of the country thinks he is lying, so why would he refuse to prove that he is telling the truth?
A phone record showing that he was, as he claimed, on the phone with his manager during the attack would go a long way in demonstrating that he has been truthful about other elements of the supposed attack (that he has also been inconsistent in recounting), so why would he not want to release them?
The only logical conclusion is that they don't support his claims and that they, like every other piece of evidence released in this case thus far, demonstrate rather unequivocally that Smollett is not telling the truth about the attack and very possibly made the whole thing up.