Activists worry that Jussie Smollett arrest will discourage hate-crime reporting by real victims

Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County Jail in Chicago following his release, Feb. 21, 2019. (Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AP)

Actor Jussie Smollett was free on bond Thursday afternoon after being arrestedand charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly falsifying a police report of a hate crime — an attack police say he staged himself and blamed on supporters of President Trump.

In a press briefing after Smollett turned himself into Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said, “Mr. Smollett is the one that orchestrated this crime” because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”

The dramatic turn of events in the case was treated by Trump as a vindication,and disheartened gay rights and civil rights advocates who fear that it will discourage future victims of hate crimes from coming forward.

Smollett, an openly gay actor who plays a gay character on the Fox series “Empire,” reported that he was attacked on Jan. 29 by two men yelling “MAGA country!” as well as homophobic and racist slurs while beating him, putting a noose around his neck and pouring bleach on him. Smollett claimed he had received a threatening letter a week earlier — which he is also suspected of having written and sent himself.

Although there was an outpouring of support and sympathy from celebrities, politicians and LGBT allies, doubts soon emerged about the actor’s story. Within a week after the attack, Smollett in a “Good Morning America” interview said he was heartbroken by the people who questioned his story. And as more holes in his account emerged, Smollett stuck to his account.

After reports surfaced that Smollett paid two men $3,500 to stage the attack, Smollett continued to deny orchestrating it.

In his first statement published by Essence magazine on Feb. 1, he said he had been “100% factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”

At the press conference, Johnson, who called the attack a “publicity stunt,” said, “Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

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