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Police: Chicago Didn't Deserve This "Publicity Stunt"; Police: Smollett Staged Attack Because He Was "Dissatisfied With His Salary"; Police: Smollett "Took Advantage Of The Pain And Anger" Of Racism. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00]

EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: -- attention specifically than we do, we give every hate crime in this city the same amount of vigor, because there's no place for hatred in this city.

And, as I said in a very beginning, you know, I lived in the city of Chicago my entire life. We just don't have any room for hatred in this city. And for somebody to use it for personal gain, it's just -- it's shameful, because what that does is take away the resources that we could be putting into other crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON: Say again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the brothers get paid for sending the letter, in any sense? If the Feds decide to look into that would you have anything to say to the Feds about the cooperation, whether or not you are going to pursue charges?

JOHNSON: That's the FBI's investigation. So CPD doesn't comment on the FBI's investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) told the media after the Grand Jury was finished that the current narrative that is out there about how much Jussie paid the brothers was incorrect. Can we please speak to whatever evident they may have that Jussie orchestrated this attack, asked the brothers to carry out this attack, and was there any evidence of money payments to the brothers?

JOHNSON: Yes, we have evidence. We have the check that he used to pay them. So the $3,500 was for the two of them in total, and then $500 on -- upon a return.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there, "An attack on the street." Or, did it take place somewhere else? How did that work? JOHNSON: No, it took place right there. So, of course, it was staged.

The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack, where they they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw in his face was most likely self-inflicted.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) the motive in this. How did you react when you learned about the motive in this? How does that gives you and all the detectives -- to finally figure out what the motive was?

JOHNSON: It, so -- let me reiterate again. You know, you all heard me say consistently that we were treating Mr. Smollett like a victim and we did. We might have had some some peculiarities with the case as we do with most cases.

So it wasn't until the 47th hour of their 48-hour hold time that we could legally hold him in custody that it that it took a change. So we gave him the benefit of the doubt, up until that 47th hour. When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody else. You know, because we have to invest valuable resources.

A lot of it -- what I want you all to really understand is, when you all put things out there into the universe, that's not actual facts, then it causes us to have to chase all that stuff down. Those are resources in time spent that we'll never get back, that we could utilize for another investigation.

And let me be clear about something, the shootings and homicides in this city were not impacted at all by this particular investigation. And again, we give the same amount of resources to every hate crime that's reported in the city.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many other people were involved in this?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was the attack purposely done out of camera? Did they know where the cameras were?

JOHNSON: I think that they knew where that one camera was, but unfortunately it didn't capture the event. So I believe that Mr. Smollett wanted it on camera, but unfortunately, that particular camera wasn't pointed in the direction.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said that search warrants were executed on Mr. Smollett's manager. Is the Chicago Police Department looking at Mr. Smollett's manager?

JOHNSON: No, not at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Smollett said he was on the phone with his manager at the time --

JOHNSON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- Is Brandon Moore involved with this? Did he know it was a ruse?

JOHNSON: He was on the phone, but whether or not he knew it was a ruse, we can't speak to that?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you are interviewing him? JOHNSON: At some point we'll talk to him.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At what point when this started getting pretty thick, people started pointing the finger at the police department. How did you take that when you saw people starting to talk negatively about the issues that were going on in the city?

JOHNSON: It was upsetting, you know. And I want you all to realize this, so we've been working on this investigation for about three weeks. We've solved several shootings and homicides in that period of time. So we don't take away resources from violent crimes of that nature, just because this person is a celebrity.

Again, you all gave this a lot more attention than it probably deserves. So when you get the opportunity, the shooting victims and families in this city that are victims of those crimes, give them the same amount of attention. This shouldn't have garnered the attention that it did, but it did because of his celebrity status.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) practice a hate crime before it actually happened. So if that was the case, why are they not being charged? Or, in that situation, should they be charged? How are you guys figuring that out?

JOHNSON: So Mr. Smollett is the one that orchestrated this crime. They became cooperating witnesses in the 47th hour, their 48-hour hold time. So now, they are witnesses to what he did. So he has to be accountable for what he did. He orchestrated this.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) pay all the money back (INAUDIBLE) massive investigation?

JOHNSON: Well, I think that's a subject for another day. But, of course, is because of what he did that we had to invest all these resources.

[10:35:00]

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Superintendent, did Kim Foxx -- ?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON: He hasn't made any statements at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have text messages?

JOHNSON: No.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have text messages between -- ?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Kim Foxx's decision to recuse herself at that - the speed in solving this case, or bringing charges?

JOHNSON: No. Kim Foxx and I -- you know, look, I'm a police superintendent, she's Cook County State's Attorney. So we talk almost every day about different cases. So the fact that she recused herself didn't impact the case at all.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did she drag her feet in anyway?

JOHNSON: Say again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did she drag her feet on this in anyway?

JOHNSON: Listen, we have a great relationship with our Federal partners, and we certainly need to have a good relationship with our State's Attorney's Office, which we did.

So again, you all have to remember, the erroneous rumors and innuendo that was put out there in the beginning, was just that. This investigation didn't turn in a direction of Mr. Smollett being a defendant until the 47th, hour that we had those two individuals in custody.

So one more hour we would have had to let them go. We may not be here today. So the State's Attorney didn't drag anything. We needed to put the case together. These things take time. This isn't TV. This is real life. So it takes time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Superintendent, there were a lot of leaks in this case. Was that intentional at all?

JOHNSON: Well, who's to say the leaks came from us. Just because they're leaks, after all it doesn't necessarily mean it came from CPD. You know I heard particular things that were out there, that I knew it was simply untrue. So it doesn't mean it came from the police department.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have messages, or other exchanges between the brothers and Jussie.

JOHNSON: We have the phone records that clearly indicate that they talked to each other quite a bit before the incident, after the incident, and while they were out of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Jussie and the brothers? You mean, the phone records?

JOHNSON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That's what you are referring to?

JOHNSON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Superintendent, do you know if Jussie made contact, or tried to make contact after they (INAUDIBLE)?

JOHNSON: You mean, right after, like moments afterwards?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Moments afterwards, did they make contact (INAUDIBLE)?

JOHNSON: Yes. I just said it. So we know that they talked at least an hour, or so before the attack, an hour or so after the attack, and then while they were out of the country. We know that they talked.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know if Jussie tried to recruit any other people to stage this attack, or were the brothers his first choice.

JOHNSON: I don't know if there were his first choice, but that's who ultimately did it, but we don't have any evidence to suggest that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) that the brothers might be victims in this? What did you mean by that?

JOHNSON: That the brothers might be the victims?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were they coerced somehow, or manipulated. How would you described them? I think that's what this man just said.

EDWARD WODNICKI, POLICE COMMANDER, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARMENT: Well, I think that -- I think the fact that this was staged, and that Jussie hired these two guys to stage this for his benefit, and then spin this into a criminal investigation, put them in a really tough spot as well.

To the point, where now, they were arrested for a hate crime, and only because of -- just the incredible work by the entire team -- did we get to the point where we're able to get the truth from them, and now we are where we are today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) those two brothers. I mean, would you describe like what their relationship was like? How close they were? Smullett was close to (INAUDIBLE)?

JOHNSON: So one of the brothers worked on "Empire", so they had a relationship and association. So he probably knew that he needed somebody with some bulk, and he knew them. They had a previous relationship. So that's probably the only reason he chose them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) on "Good Morning America"?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: "Good Morning America"?

JOHNSON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: "ABC"?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) the review on ABC?

JOHNSON: I didn't see that. I didn't see the entire thing. I saw a couple of parts of it. And and to be quite honest, this is shameful. You know, because it painted this city, that we all love and work hard in, in a negative connotation.

You know to insinuate, and to stage a hate crime of that nature, when he knew, as a celebrity, it would get a lot of attention, it's just despicable. You know it's -- it makes you wonder, what's going through someone's mind to do something like that.

So, yes, I saw a couple of parts of it, and I was angered by it to be quite honest.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How quickly did you all know that this -- ?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) go in a regular yellow cab afterwards?

JOHNSON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) which you have a profile for (INAUDIBLE) have been able to figure out (INAUDIBLE)?

[10:40:00]

JOHNSON: Well, you know what? That certainly helped, and you know, their account information on that really pinpointed of who they were. But who's to say whether or not we would have or not.

You know these -- Let me tell you this. These individuals you see standing behind me, the detectives in Chicago, in my opinion, are probably some of the best detectives in this country.

So I have no doubt that they would have gotten to the bottom of this. You know, oh, oh, is that -- OK. That's the last call before closure.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) this crime was reported did you all figure out, or think that something doesn't add up?

JOHNSON: Well, to be perfectly honest, from the very beginning, we had some some questions about it. But, as I said, we gave Mr. Smollett the benefit of the doubt all the way up until that 47th hour of the 48 hours, we could hold those two individuals, because we just didn't have the the total package to support that it was a hoax.

So when you heard me coming out saying, we are treating him like a victim, that was the truth, because at that time, that's what he was. And I think anybody that reports a crime deserves the Chicago Police Department to treat them in that fashion, until we have solid evidence to prove otherwise.

Somebody in the back.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) by the check, but did they indicate anything else that made them do this? Why they agreed to do it? What they thought the outcome would be?

JOHNSON: Well, you know what, they did it because of the financial aspect of it. Now, whether or not they knew the whole thing would go the way that it did, I can tell you all with 100 percent certainty, the way that they carried this out, there was never a thought in their mind that we will be able to track them down.

Because these detectives they put in intense work, and just great work, and I cannot say how incredibly proud I am of them for the work that they put into it. But that's just an example of the work that they do every day, that just goes unreported, because it doesn't get the media attention that this particular case got. But it was financial gain.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Superintendent (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) in the investigation, and that Jussie essentially identified who these brothers were?

JOHNSON: He identified who those two individuals were. You know, we knew that then. He didn't know that we knew. But yes, he helped us out when he identified them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) identified the brothers (INAUDIBLE) when was it in the investigation that you realized their (INAUDIBLE), and who they were? Was it when he attracted (INAUDIBLE)?

JOHNSON: No, it was after the rideshare account. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Superintendent, the one piece of evidence that just confirming that he wanted, was not found on camera, the rough housing, the minor --

JOHNSON: No.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- the staged beating, it's not on camera anywhere.

JOHNSON: That was the one piece. We have about, I would say, about two hours of footage back and forth, and that those few minutes were not on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON: We don't know yet. OK. Thank you all.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) a little more detail about the 47th hour (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON: Say again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you go into a little more detail about what it was in the 47th hour that -- JOHNSON: Well, that's -- at the 47th hours, when the two brothers decided, like the commander, reiterated that, with the help of their lawyer, they decided to confess to the entirety of what the plot was.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there racism, or discrimination -- ?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON: Say that again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You say you want Smollett to be held accountable. I'm curious, what kind of -- what is justice in your eyes? JOHNSON: Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he

smeared, admitting what he did, and then, be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is that racism (INAUDIBLE) ?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That was just a scathing takedown of an alleged hate crime that turned out to be false. The Chicago Superintendent of Police there with palpable anger, really as he spoke, calling this despicable, calling it shameful, saying that Jussie Smollett took drastic and illegal tactics, simply to gain attention, and because he wasn't satisfied with his salary.

Rare that you see uniformed police officers be so direct, and so angry frankly, at a false crime. Listen to his comments, how the superintendent, Eddie Johnson, kicked off this remarkable press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: This announcement today, recognizes that "Empire" actor, Jussie Smollett, took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I'm left hanging my head, and asking why?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:45:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make to make false accusations?

How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol, and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual, who's been embraced by the city of Chicago, turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?

Bogus police reports calls real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim, who's in need of support by police and and investigators, as well as the citizens of this city.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: New details from the investigation, too, that they revealed - I mean, this was fantastic police work. When you go through how they substantiated this being a false crime.

A hundred interviews, more than a hundred interviews. That they used 35 state, or government cameras, 25 private-sector cameras to bring together hours of video to help document this, 50 search warrants. I mean, a remarkable case of police work.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Let's bring in our experts. Areva Martin, to you, what struck you the most?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: When we started the segment, my question was, why? And for the first time, Poppy, we got an answer to that question.

I think everyone that has been following this story so intensely, has been trying to figure out, why this young man would put his career at risk? Why he would put the reputations and credibility of high-profile figures like presidential candidates, celebrities, social justice activists? Why would he put all of them in jeopardy?

And for the first time, we heard this superintendent of police tell us the reason. That this was all about personal, financial gain. This was about the Benjamins. This was about the money. And it is just unbelievable to me, as I sit here listening to this press conference.

And Jim, like you, I started writing down the adjectives used by the superintendent. And he is angry. In his own words, he's pissed off, and I concur with him. Racism is such an issue in this country, and so many people are on the front lines fighting to eradicate racism, to raise awareness about it, to fight back against hate crimes.

And this kind of false accusation just sets that movement, those efforts, back decades. So just shameful conduct, if indeed, the statements of this police department are a hundred percent accurate.

SCIUTTO: Ryan Young, you were there in the room. It struck us that it wasn't clear whether Smollett has admitted guilt at this point.

You saw the police superintendent there, at the end, said he wants an apology, he wants an admission, and he wants him to pay back the cost of this. Not clear, but on motive, really a remarkable, or disturbing revelations.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. The first thing's first here. I was told the motive, maybe two or three days ago, by a source. I didn't even feel comfortable repeating it, because I never believed that's what they were going to come forward with.

So the fact that he came out so strongly with it. In fact, listen to his words as he talked about the motive, just a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic, and political language. When that didn't work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack, and dragged Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process.

And why this stunt was orchestrated by Smollett? Because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: I think the rank-and-file, and people in the city, are going to be very happy with how strong the superintendent came across. I think the opening line, talking about as a black man, and living in the city, and talking about the noose, and how he used that, and how it upset several members of the police department, as something else that people are going to applaud.

Because, look, a lot of times people complain about our coverage, in terms of Chicago, because they think we paint too negative of a picture of a city. You're talking about a city where crime is trending downward, but all the time, people try to make this city a punching bag to talk about crime.

Well, in this neighborhood, where this crime happened, there's not a lot of crime. And you see how the resources came together, and despite the fact that people were throwing arrows at the police department throughout all of this. Why couldn't they get this faster? Why couldn't they do this?

And you see the fact that, a day later, they were able to develop suspects through these video images, and then track this down bit by bit. And I'm told when the two men returned back from Nigeria, they were shocked when the police department was there to greet them at the airport to take them into custody. They never thought that was going to happen.

[10:50:00]

YOUNG: So when you see this all unfold and how strong the suit the superintendent was with this conversation, you understand what they're doing. And the fact that he asked for an apology, I was quite shocked that he went as far as he did. But there are people who were really upset about all the hours that the police officers had to spend to investigate this case.

HARLOW: Of course, and you know Ryan, the way that he started, the superintendent, the commissioner there, started the press conference, looking at how many of you journalists were there, and then live coverage across the nation.

He said, I wish that the victims of gun violence in this city got the attention that this case is getting, Ryan.

YOUNG: I think that's so important, because look, we've covered stories before, and I remember there have been times, where there have been innocent children shot on the South Side of Chicago.

And look, people can frame that however they want to politically. But not a lot of people go and cover some of these stories sometimes. Especially with the national media, only show up during the holidays.

The fact that he's able to zero in on that, and call everyone out at the same time, by saying look, we are going to be open. You want to cover these stories, come and cover it. But the fact that the detectives are going out, and they're facing some challenging circumstances sometimes, you can see that there's a tide that's shifting here in the city, in terms of how they're looking at some of the gun violence in the city.

They've got ShotSpotter technology all throughout it. But it's not sexy all the time to talk about a thousand people shot. It sounds like it's over and over again, but that's not what happened. He put it out on front street. And then, the idea that someone who calls himself an advocate would stand up, and take those resources, and challenge the community in a way that maybe shouldn't have happened.

And then at some point people were calling out the police department saying this was a racist organization. Well imagine, as a African- American superintendent police chief, who's standing as the face of this police department, he's hearing all this constantly. The way he fought back today, I think a lot of the rank-and-file officers love to hear that, because it is hard to do policing in big urban cities.

There's not a way to solve crime very quickly, and you see how this is starting kind of unfolding right in front of our eyes.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: James Gagliano, I know you had a whole bunch of years in law enforcement. You ever see a uniformed police chief, superintendent, speak with that much emotion and anger, really.

JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: No, I haven't. And Superintendent Eddie Johnson took this case personally. The Chicago Police Department took it personally. The city of Chicago took it personally.

I was struck by a couple of things. The fact that he called him out for exploiting the racial divide in this country. And then, putting a finer point on it by saying he was motivated by financial gain. Something to help out his career.

Couple of quick takeaways on this. The fact that the superintendent talked about, he used the grand jury process here.

HARLOW: Great.

GAGLIANO: There were a couple of ways they could have gone about it. They could've filed a criminal complaint. They could have filed an information -- They chose to use the grand jury process to lock witnesses into their testimony.

The other piece about this I thought was interesting, I've never, to your point, seen a chronological rundown of a case like this. And it's because the case had such national, you know, impact and import, that the Chicago Police Department felt is important to say here's what we did, here's how we got from point A to Point B.

Start out as a victim. We never, ever, ever assumed that. We worked through it until we could disprove things he had said. SCIUTTO: That's a good point. And he reiterated it -- the police --

where he said that even as they were gathering this evidence, they started from the presumption that he was a victim, and stuck with that throughout, until they could prove, in what appears to be fairly tight case otherwise.

GAGLIANO: You saw how the superintendent also pointed out they're going to seek restitution for this. So think about it, 12 detectives working essentially around the clock, for two to three weeks on this. They're going to seek restitution.

So not only is he facing three years -- three years on a felony disorderly conduct charge, which is allegedly making a false statement, and then seeking the restitution for the resources that were diverted the wrong place.

HARLOW: Areva how do you defend a client like this at this point?

MARTIN: I think the best thing, and I think we'll see this happen, Poppy, is that they've got to be conversations that are taking place between Smollett's criminal defense attorneys and the prosecutors.

I don't think he wants to continue this narrative. He's gone on national television, and he gave that very passionate statement about how he was attacked. Now, that's all being unraveled.

I think if he wants to work again in this town, if he wants to have his career revived at some point, he's got to end the bleed. This drip, drip that's happened over the last three weeks, has been incredibly damaging to him.

Now, for this story to end with him being arrested. A mug shot of him having to appear later today in a bond hearing. I think, and I'm sure, he's getting counsel from some very fine attorneys, that the best thing for him to do is, to try to plead this out.

Hopefully, from his perspective, get some kind of probation, or very short jail time. Make an offer of restitution, because I agree with -- you know, James, there's going to be restitution on the table here.

[10:55:00]

MARTIN: And try to move past this at some point. I know he can't issue a public apology now because of criminal procedure are ongoing, and his lawyers aren't going to allow him to make any kind of statement.

But when the time is right, and when it's appropriate, I do think he owes, not only the city of Chicago, but everyone around the nation that came to his defense, and those victims of hate crimes, those true victims of hate crimes who don't get the kind of national attention that he gets, I think he owes all of them an apology as well.

HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: It's a sad story. It's sad.

HARLOW: Very sad.

SCIUTTO: But if there's a silver lining, if that's the right thing to cause, it appears the police have come to the truth here, an accident.

HARLOW: I think our immense thanks to the Chicago Police Department for what they've done over the last few weeks on this. Thank you all for being with us for this remarkable breaking news.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

HARLOW: We're going to continue that coverage ahead.

[11:00:00]