He wanted a better salary. That's the alleged motive of Empire actor Jussie Smollett for staging a fake assault on himself, according to Chicago police. Chief Eddie Johnson told reporters Thursday that the 36-year-old actor wasn't happy with what he was making on the Fox show and thought he could improve his position as the victim of a hate crime, reports CBS News. The first step taken by Smollett, who is black and gay, was to send himself a threatening, anonymous letter, says Johnson. When that failed to do much, Smollett concocted the idea of having two men attack him in downtown Chicago, say police. He allegedly enlisted two acquaintances, a pair of Nigerian brothers, who've cooperated with police.
"To stage a hate crime of that nature, when he knew as a celebrity it would get a lot of attention ... is just despicable," said Johnson. "Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Smollett could get anything from probation to three years in prison if convicted of filing a fake police report. Johnson also wants him to reimburse the city. As for the bruises and scratches on Smollett's face when he went to police: "most likely self-inflicted," says Johnson, per NBC News. The brothers "punched him a little bit with gloves," but likely not enough to cause the damage. Smollett said his attackers told him this was "MAGA country," and President Trump joined the condemnation Thursday: "What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?" he wrote. (Read more Jussie Smollett stories.)