By J. D. Heyes
As more details surrounding “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett and his apparent hate crime hoax are revealed, a bombshell report from a local Chicago investigative news site has gone largely unnoticed.
Most of the coverage regarding Smollett has centered around the attack itself, the aftermath, what he told police, what police now believe happened, and the alleged involvement of two Nigerian brothers reportedly paid by the actor to stage the assault.
But one facet of the evolving storyline that has escaped the attention of most Americans following along, as well as most news organizations reporting on this saga, is how it began in the first place: with a juvenile-looking letter sent to Fox studios addressed to Smollett.
As reported by CWB Chicago, someone dropped the letter into a mailbox in Chicago’s southwest suburbs on Jan. 18, several days before Smollett’s alleged hate crime took place and made national news.
The envelope containing the letter looked like a three-year-old had written it. It was sent to Smollett at Cinespace Studios, located on Chicago’s West Side where the program originates. “MAGA” — which stands for the president’s “Make America Great Again” 2016 campaign slogan — was written haphazardly in the return address space. Four days later, the website reported, the letter showed up at the studio and into Smollett’s hands.
“Something about the envelope must have raised concerns. Smollett would later tell police that he and Empire’s executive producer donned gloves before they opened it and exposed themselves to a threat letter covered in white powder. Police logged the time as 2:30 p.m.,” CBS Chicago reported.
The powder, it was determined later, turned out to be crushed Tylenol tablets. The letter, which featured words and letters cut out of a magazine, threatened Smollett using racial, homophobic language: “You will die black f*g.”
A week or so later is when Smollett initially reported the alleged attack to police, claiming he was beaten by two “MAGA” hat-wearing white males who poured a bleach-like substance on him, put a noose around his neck, and hollered, “This is MAGA country!”
But as Smollett was reporting the attack to Chicago PD, “a multi-agency federal investigation into the source of the threat letter was entering its seventh day,” the local news site reported.
That probe is being headed by the FBI’s Chicago Field Office and began, at least, as a terrorist threat investigation. The bureau is being assisted by personnel from the United States Postal Inspection Service, a serious law enforcement entity of the U.S. Postal Service founded by none other than American patriot Benjamin Franklin.
“Whoever sent the letter to Smollett may have considered the mail to be an untraceable way to deliver a message,” CWB Chicago reported. “They’d be mistaken.”
The USPS Inspection Service has a number of ways to track letters back to their source, but a modern technique involves technology: Cellphone tracking. Beyond that, other evidence is piling up.
The two Nigerian brothers whom police initially identified and picked up for questioning told investigators last week that Smollett planned the hate crime hoax because he was angry the threat letter didn’t get more attention.
Meanwhile, FBI and USPS agents have been trying to discover the origins of the threat letter for nearly a month, “giving it far more ‘attention’ than he knew,” CWB Chicago reports.
In a tweet, the news agency quoted a “very good” crime investigator who said, “This is not a whodunit. It’s a how-many-people-dunit.” The threat letter is a “direct” link to the alleged attack, the investigation source added.
Very good source on @JussieSmollett hate crime investigation:
"This is not a whodunit. It's a how-many-people-dunit."
— CWBChicago (@CWBChicago) February 11, 2019
Whoever mailed the threat letter “made an enormous mistake,” the news site was told, adding that their sources say federal charges are “certain.”
Per a legal (attorney) source: “If they have Smollett on the letter, he’ll be facing ‘terroristic hoax’ charges, a felony. There may be federal obstruction charges as well.”
A version of this story first appeared at NewsTarget.
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