The Chicago Police Department's case against Jussie Smollett just a got a little weaker.
According to TMZ, the $3,500 check authorities said Jussie paid brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo to attack him in January was actually payment for a training program, which the brothers confirmed. This update contradicts Chicago PD's initial claim that the Empire star paid them off with said check. Abel and Ola's attorney, Gloria Schmidt, also told TMZ the $3,500 check was compensation for a training and nutrition program designed to get Jussie in shape for a music video shoot.
As previously reported, the Superintendent of Chicago PD, Eddie Johnson, accused the Empire actor of staging his January attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary." During a press conference last month, Eddie claimed Jussie took "drastic and illegal tactics to gain attention," adding the actor "concocted a story" about an alleged hate crime that "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career." The Chicago PD accused the actor of paying his attackers — Ola and Abel — $3,500 by check before the attack and sending them the rest of their payment after the job was done. "Smollet paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process," Eddie said during the press conference.
The new update comes on the heels of a grand jury indicting Jussie on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. Despite the additional chargers — the Empire actor was initially charged with one count of disorderly conduct on February 20 — Jussie, who is out on bail, maintained his innocence.
In a statement released to People, the 36-year-old actor's attorney, Mark Geragos, said, "The fact of an indictment is not unexpected. We knew that there is no way they would expose their evidence to a public airing and subject their witnesses to cross-examination."
"What is unexpected however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie," the statement continued. "This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie's privacy in tampering with his medical records. Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption."
If Jussie is found guilty, he faces a potential sentence of up to three years in prison. The 36-year-old actor is due back in court March 14, when he is expected to enter his plea.
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