CBS Chicago: Smollett wrote the hate-crime letter too

Jussie Smollett’s career as a producer and director won’t win him any awards, if CBS Chicago’s sources in the investigation are correct. Not only did the Empire actor script his own attack, the two brothers initially arrested in the “attack” Smollett have allegedly told police, he wrote the earlier threatening letter to the show’s producers as well. That may land Smollett a starring role in another production altogether:

The two brothers involved in the Jussie Smollett attack told police that Smollett was behind creating a racist letter that was sent to the actor on the set of his show, “Empire,” according to two sources with first-hand knowledge of the investigation.

And when that letter did not get a “bigger reaction,” Smollett orchestrated the attack a week later with the two men–Ola and Abel Osundairo, sources said. Also Tuesday, sources said the two brothers were seen on a ride share video camera before being dropped off near the location of the attack. …

The note was crafted with letters apparently cut out from magazines to form words. The pieced-together message contained racial and homophobic threats directed at Smollett. A magazine is one of the pieces of evidence retrieved from the brother’s home last week during a search conducted by CPD. Investigators also recovered a book of stamps.

As bad as matters have become for Smollett in Chicago, this increases his troubles exponentially. CBS Chicago also reports that the FBI has gotten involved in the investigation, which tends to confirm that investigators at least see this as a significant possibility. A hoax attack itself, if that’s what this was, would have only involved the potential criminal liability of filing a false police report and potential civil action to recoup the cost of the investigation. Sending that letter through the US mail was a federal crime no matter who did it. If Smollett sent it, he could get five years in prison for such a stunt under 18 USC 876:

(c) Whoever knowingly so deposits or causes to be delivered as aforesaid, any communication with or without a name or designating mark subscribed thereto, addressed to any other person and containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of the addressee or of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. If such a communication is addressed to a United States judge, a Federal law enforcement officer, or an official who is covered by section 1114, the individual shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

But wait — there’s more! Since the letter contained the crushed aspiring as a hoax chemical/biological attack in itself, that violates 18 US Code 1038 – False Information and Hoaxes. That could add another five years to a potential sentence, although it would likely run concurrently rather than consecutively. Smollett’s next gig could be Club Fed, and for more than a season.

This seems like odd timing, too:

Why? Her office released a statement last night:

Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.

That may not mean much if the FBI links the letter back to Smollett. The state won’t be the big stage for an eventual trial under those circumstances. But it’s certainly curious.