Chicago, IL – “Empire” star Jussie Smollett’s $3,500 has claimed his check to Abel Osundairo was for training and nutrition guidance, not to stage attack on himself, sources told TMZ.
The check, made payable to one of the brothers who have alleged that Smollett hired them to stage an attack on him, was dated Jan. 23, although police have said they believe it was actually written the day before the racially-charged hoax occurred.
Sources told TMZ that Smollett had hired Abel Osundairo to help him lose 20 pounds before the video shoot for his new song “Don’t Go.”
The $3,500 breaks down into $600 a week for a workout plan, for five weeks, and $100 a week for five weeks of meal plans, sources told TMZ.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he wasn’t concerned about the new claims regarding the check.
“There’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet that does not support his innocence … physical, video and testimony,” Superintendent Johnson told Good Morning America, according to the [Chicago Sun-Times](https://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment/jussie-smollett-gma-good-morning-america-eddie-johnson/said during an interview with Good Morning America.).
He said that Chicago police treated Smollett as a victim until overwhelming evidence to the contrary made the actor a suspect in his own attack.
This is only the latest of proposed defenses the actor’s attorneys may use to try to mitigate charges against Smollett.
TMZ reported that Smollett told police that he had an untreated drug problem when he turned himself in at the Chicago Police Department’s 1st District on Feb. 21.
Police have said the actor bought Ecstasy from Abel Osundairo, one of the brothers who have alleged that Smollett hired them to stage an attack on him.
Smollett’s attorneys may be teeing up a defense whereby the actor’s drug use becomes a mitigating factor to his crime, according to TMZ.
However, court documents showed that the 36-year-old Smollett told police he did not have any alcohol or mental problems while he was being booked, The Epoch Times reported.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has said that Smollett’s motives were tied to his salary on the FOX television show “Empire,” but sources from inside the show told TMZ that none of the executives or producers had any idea the actor was unhappy with his $125,000 per episode fee.
His per-episode rate is the same as his co-star Bryshere Gray, who plays his brother.
But stars Taraji Henson and Terrance Howard reportedly make twice that, at $250,000 per episode, according to TMZ.
At a press conference the morning of Smollett’s arrest, Superintendent Johnson told reporters the actor had sent himself threatening letters and staged an attack on himself because he didn’t think he was getting paid enough for his role in the TV show.
“First, Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic, and political language. When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” the superintendent said. “And why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked.”
He said that Smollett lied when he told police he was jumped by two masked men as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant in his Streeterville neighborhood in the early hours of Jan. 29.
Smollett claimed the men beat him, and hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
The actor told police that the men threw an unknown substance on him and put a noose around his neck before they ran off.
His manager told police that he was on the phone with his client at the time of the attack and heard Smollett’s attackers say “This is MAGA country” while they were assaulting the actor, NBC News reported.
Superintendent Johnson called the actor’s hoax bad for the city.
“But to put the national spotlight on Chicago for something that is both egregious and untrue is simply shameful. I’m also concerned about what this means moving forward for hate crimes,” he said. “Police will investigate with same amount of vigor, but the public will now look with skepticism they didn’t have before.”
He also offered what some interpreted as a challenge to the media.
“I only hope that the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention that the hoax did,” the police superintendent told reporters.
Superintendent Johnson explained that police considered Smollett a victim up until Abel Osundairo and his brother, Ola Osundairo, returned to Chicago and were taken into police custody, and then the investigation “spun in a totally different direction.”
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt up until that 47th hour. But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” he explained.
He said the brothers told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with another $500 after they returned from a planned trip to Nigeria.
“We have the check that he used to pay them,” Superintendent Johnson said.
He said police have obtained phone records that “clearly indicate” Smollett and the Osundairo brothers talked to each other quite a bit before and after the staged attack, as well as while the brothers were out of the country.
Superintendent Johnson also said that Smollett had beaten himself up before he went to the hospital.
“The brothers had on gloves during the staged attacked where they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self-inflicted,” the superintendent explained.
He said that he believed the actor wanted the faked attack caught on camera, but the particular camera he chose to perform in front of wasn’t pointed the right direction.
He said the Osundairo brothers were not facing any charges for the incident.
“Mr. Smollett is the one that orchestrated this crime,” the superintendent explained. “They became cooperating witnesses in the 47th hour of their 48-hour hold time. So now they are witnesses to what he did so he has to be accountable for what he did. He orchestrated this.”
He said Smollett’s manager was not considered a suspect and that police did not know if he had knowledge of the actor’s ruse.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Postal Inspector were investigating whether Smollett had sent himself the threatening letter he received at the television studio a week before the staged attack.
Smollett was released on a $100,000 bond. He surrendered his passport and was ordered not to leave Illinois.
However, a judge on Monday gave Smollett permission to travel to New York and Los Angeles to meet with his attorneys, according to the New York Post.
Smollett is scheduled to next appear in court on March 14.