On Wednesday, Chicago police told PJ Media that they still consider “Empire” star Jussie Smollett a victim of a crime despite his unraveling story. Spokespeople for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) said surveillance footage of the area has not confirmed the presence of any potential assailants in “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats, and they confirmed that the suspicious hot sauce bottle of a bleach-smelling liquid appeared on the scene after police had canvassed the area multiple times.
“The person in question is a victim of a crime currently under investigation by the Chicago Police Department,” police officer Michael Carroll told PJ Media.
Last week, Fox 32 Chicago anchor Rafer Weigel tweeted, “[Chicago Police Superintendent] Eddie Johnson says [Jussie Smollett] is still being treated as the victim in this case but if the investigation does reveal he made a false report he will be held accountable.”
— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 5, 2019
Earlier this week, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the redacted phone records Smollett turned over to police “do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation as they were limited and heavily redacted,” ABC7 Chicago reported. Even so, it appears police have not discovered conclusive evidence that Smollett was lying.
Smollett claimed that on January 29, attackers wearing MAGA hats had screamed “This is MAGA country!” before seizing him, putting a noose around his neck, and pouring an unknown bleach-smelling liquid on him.
This week, The New York Post discovered a suspicious hot sauce bottle with bleach-smelling liquid that may have been planted at the scene to corroborate Smollett’s story, which might be a hoax.
PJ Media asked CPD if there were any bottles of bleach-smelling liquid discovered by police n the original report of the scene. CPD officer Michael Carroll said, “No.”
When asked about the hot sauce bottle of bleach-smelling liquid, Carroll said it was “correct” to say it was not at the scene at the time of the original police investigation. “It is unclear if that bottle is related to the incident as it was not discovered during any of the earlier canvases, but we took it for analysis,” he said.
The spokesman also described the evidence to corroborate Jussie Smollett’s claims. “We have collected physical evidence related to this incident, including rope, clothing from the victim, as well as video from numerous closed-circuit cameras in the surrounding area,” Carroll said.
The Chicago Police Department spokesman added, “Recovered video has not depicted any confrontation with the victim.”
PJ Media asked about the footage, specifically whether or not it depicts men in MAGA hats. “That is not confirmed at this time,” PO Michelle Tannehill said.
As more evidence comes to light, it seems more and more likely Jussie Smollett’s story is a hoax. The lack of video confirmation of the altercation is suspicious. The lack of footage showing MAGA hat-wearing assailants is suspicious. The appearance — after multiple police canvases — of the hot sauce bottle is suspicious. Jussie Smollett’s redactions of his phone records are also suspicious.
It remains possible Smollett is telling the truth, but it seems increasingly likely this is a hoax. As of right now, the Chicago Police Department has not decided to change its view of Jussie Smollett as the victim. But this story is far from over.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.