Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson appeared on “Good Morning America” on Monday so that the “record gets set straight” in the Jussie Smollett investigation.
The sitdown comes just days after Johnson and Chicago law enforcement officials said that Smollett orchestrated the Jan. 29 attack with two brothers because he was dissatisfied with his pay on his Fox series, which he has since been written off of for this season’s final two episodes. Smollett has denied staging the incident.
“The city of Chicago has its issues, the Chicago Police Department has its issues with racism and excessive force and all of that, and I’m acutely aware of that,” Johnson told ABC’s Robin Roberts on Monday.
“But we didn’t earn this particular incident, and I just refuse to let us have to take that shot if I have evidence to the contrary. So I just want people to understand that it’s a damaging thing to do to a city and to a police department, so it’s my responsibility to ensure that the record gets set straight,” he said.
Roberts also gave Smollett a platform on “GMA” to recount his alleged attack earlier this month, before the trajectory of the investigation shifted against him. On Monday, Johnson was adamant that Smollett is presumed to be innocent despite additional evidence that hasn’t been publicized yet that indicates otherwise.
“He still has the presumption of innocence, and he’ll get his opportunity in court if he goes that route,” Johnson said, adding, “there’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet, and does not support the version he gave. There’s still a lot of physical evidence, video evidence and testimony that just simply does not support his version of what happened.”
Johnson defended his department’s investigation as skepticism mounted around Smollett’s story, saying that the CPD investigated the actor’s allegations as a hate crime and treated him like a victim from the get-go.
“I refused to let CPD characterize him as a suspect unless we had concrete evidence,” Johnson said.
Smollett was arrested on Thursday and then released on bond. He’s due in court in March.
Johnson told Roberts that the case went from being a hate crime to a hoax after police questioned two brothers who told investigators they were paid $3,500 to carry out the attack and presented as evidence a check Smollett allegedly wrote. (The memo line of the payment said that it was for a five-week workout regimen, and Smollett’s camp has said one of the brothers was hired by the actor to get him into shape for a music video.)
“It’s important for people to recognize that it’s not the Chicago Police saying that he did something,” Johnson said. “It’s the evidence, the facts and the witnesses that are saying it.”