Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told “Good Morning America” on Monday that there is “a lot more evidence” to support the police case against Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging a hate crime attack last month.
“There’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet, and does not support the version he gave,” Johnson told Robin Roberts. “There’s still a lot of physical evidence, video evidence and testimony that just simply does not support his version of what happened.”
The interview comes days after Chicago police held a press conference asserting Smollett set up a hoax because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Fox’s TV series “Empire.” On Jan. 29, Smollett filed a claim that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime. Last Thursday, Smollett turned himself in to police to face a charge of filing a false police report.
When Smollett initially reported the incident, he alleged that attackers doused him in bleach and put a noose around his neck. Johnson explained to Roberts that Smollett told police although his attackers were wearing ski masks covering their faces, he could see they were “white-skinned.”
Police believe that Smollett paid two brothers, Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, to orchestrate the assault. Johnson said it wasn’t till the 47th hour of a 48-hour investigation that the brothers began cooperating with investigators.
Johnson clarified that Smollett has the assumption of innocence until his day in court. Smollett has denied having played any role in staging the attack. Johnson said despite the red flags that came up during the initial investigation, the police department “has to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”
Johnson also discussed race relations within the police department and potential “mistrust” from the public.
“The city of Chicago and the Chicago police department has its issues with racism and excessive force and all of that, and I’m acutely aware of that,” Smollett said. “But we didn’t earn this particular incident and I just refuse to let us have to take that shot if I have evidence to the contrary. I just want people to understand that’s a damaging thing to do to a city and to a police department. It’s my responsibility to ensure the record gets set straight.”
Johnson said he hopes the controversy around the Smollett case doesn’t make it harder for victims of hate crimes to come forward in the future.
“There are real victims of crimes of that nature, hate crimes, and I just hope people don’t treat them with skepticism,” he said. “This is one particular incident, and it has to stand on its own merits.”
Fox announced Friday Smollett has been removed from the final episodes from Season 5 of “Empire” in the wake of his arrest.