Did Jussie Smollett try to disguise payment for the attack police now say was a hoax as a check for a workout and nutrition plan?
Chicago Police said the $3,500 check in question, made out to Abimbola Osundairo, is one of they key pieces of evidence against the "Empire" actor, who they say staged an attack on himself last month because he was dissatisfied with his salary on the series.
According to police, Smollett paid Osundairo and his brother, Olabinjo Osundairo, to carry out the assault, which the actor said was a hate crime.
The check is just one piece of the case against Smollett, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told "Good Morning America" Monday.
"There’s still a lot of physical evidence, video evidence and testimony that just simply does not support his version of what happened," Johnson said.
His remarks followed a scathing press conference Thursday in which Johnson accused Smollett of committing the alleged crime "for personal gain," adding that the actor owes an "apology to the city he smeared."
"Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process," Johnson said. "And why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked."
Smollett has been charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct in connection with falsely filing a police report. He has not yet entered a plea, but reportedly maintained his innocence while on the set of "Empire" last week.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this,” Smollett told the cast and crew, according to TMZ.
Fox, which produces "Empire," later announced that Smollett would be suspended in order to "avoid further disruption on set."
But some are standing by Smollett. Terrence Howard, who plays Smollett's father on "Empire," defended him, sharing a video of Smollett playing with his young son and writing, "The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly."
“His innocence or judgment is not for any of us to decide," Howard continued. "Stay in your lane and my lane is empathy and love and compassion for someone I’ve called my son for five years. It’s God’s job to judge and it’s ours to love and hope, especially for those that we claim to have loved."
Smollett’s attorneys said Thursday that the “presumption of innocence” was disregarded for Smollett.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” Smollett’s legal team said in a statement. “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a mayoral election.
"Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
Smollett is expected back in court on March 14, at which point he will enter a plea.