Although the state-level criminal charges were reportedly dropped against actor Jussie Smollett, it remains unclear whether the federal government is still investigating whether he was involved in sending a death threat to himself at “Empire’s” Chicago studio.
Before Smollett claimed two men attacked him with a chemical substance, the studio received a letter addressed to the actor containing a white powder, which turned out to be aspirin. A lawyer and a former police superintendent said the mailing the letter could be considered a terroristic hoax under federal law.
The letter used similar language to the supposed physical attack. Its return address said “MAGA,” and it said “You will die black fag” using letters cut out of magazines.
When Smollett’s alleged accomplices in faking the assault were arrested, police took a magazine and a book of stamps from their home.
A source told CBS2 that the letter was at the root of the better-publicized physical attack, saying “When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack.” (RELATED: Here’s a List of Hoax Hate Crimes In the Trump Era)
Two federal officials told ABC News in February that the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service were investigating whether he was involved in sending the letter. One said the letter was being analyzed in the FBI’s crime lab.
The FBI’s Chicago office declined to comment Tuesday to the Daily Caller News Foundation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not return a request for comment.
In contrast to a crime using the federal mail service, the alleged assault was a local crime charged by the Cook County State’s Attorney. Smollett’s lawyer said the charges were dropped Tuesday. A judge sealed the case, and prosecutors said in a statement that the outcome was just given in part Smollet’s “volunteer service in the community.”
Jussie Smollett Charges Dropped; ‘His Record Has Been Wiped Clean’ According to @CharlieDeMar Chicago Police Supt. Johnson is “furious.”
“He had no heads up this was going to happen.” @cbschicagohttps://t.co/hGcaOtpUgA
— Dave Lucas (@davelucas) March 26, 2019
A lawyer told CWB Chicago: “If they have Smollett on the letter, he’ll be facing ‘terroristic hoax’ charges, a felony. There may be federal obstruction charges as well. If they want to bury him, they can.”
CWB also reported that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was working with the FBI on the mail case and quoted a police officer saying that criminal investigators with the postal unit can be aggressive and deploys sophisticated techniques. “Those postal guys are the real deal,” he said. “They can do amazing things and aren’t afraid of the work.” (RELATED: NYC Synagogue Vandalism Suspect Is Former City Hall Anti-Hate Crime Intern)
Former Boston Police Superintendent Daniel Linskey said on Fox News in February that the letter would be worse than the fake assault.
“The terrorist event that he caused — where he sends the white powder envelope through the mail and faked a hazmat scare — not only is that mail fraud and all kinds of issues with the U.S. Postal Service, but putting white powder in an envelope brings it to a level of a potential terrorist hoax event, which could lead to significant time if he is convicted,” Linskey said.
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