Police allege Jussie Smollett staged a bias attack on himself as a publicity stunt to boost his salary on Empire

By Helen Murphy
February 22, 2019 10:32 AM

Charles Barkley is speaking out about Jussie Smollett.

During TNT’s Inside the NBA on Thursday night, Barkley, 56, joked about the 36-year-old Empire actor, who Chicago police say paid two men $3,500 to stage a “bogus” hate crime attack against him to draw attention to himself because the actor was dissatisfied with his salary.

During a panel with Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson where the four men were discussing which basketball prediction “had no chance of happening,” Barkley responded, “two black guys beating a black guy up.”

After the men laughed, Barkley continued, “America, let me just tell you something: Do not commit crimes with checks. If you’re going to break the law, do not write a check… get cash, man!”

“You wasted all that damn time and money,” Barkley continued, addressing Smollett. “You know what you should’ve did? Just went up to Liam Neeson’s neighborhood. It would’ve solved all your damn problems,” referring to Neeson’s controversial confession earlier this month that he once wanted to “kill” a black man after a female friend of his was allegedly raped.

Barkley’s statements came just hours after Smollett, who claimed he was the subject of a racist and homophobic attack at the hands of two men on Jan. 29 in Chicago, was present in bond court on Thursday afternoon, hours after he turned himself into police.

Credit: Roy Rochlin/WireImage; Slaven Vlasic/Getty

In a bond proffer, prosecutors allege Smollett wrote a $3,500 personal check to brothers Olabinjo “Ola” and Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo in order to stage the hate attack. Prosecutors claim Smollett had met Abel on the Empire set, where the latter had been working as a stand-in for the character Kai, who is an on-screen love interest of Smollett’s character.

Also on Thursday, police allege Smollett staged a bias attack on himself as a publicity stunt to boost his salary on the Fox show.

Jussie Smollett on Feb. 21
| Credit: TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In a scathing statement released by Smollett’s attorneys on Thursday and obtained by CBS Chicago reporter Charlie De Mar, the actor’s legal team said that “presumption of innocence … was trampled upon” in the Empire star’s case.

WATCH: Jussie Smollett Allegedly Paid $3,500 to Stage Attack Because He Was Unhappy with Salary: Police

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the statement began.

“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,” the statement continued. “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.”

If Smollett is found guilty, falsifying a police report is a Class 4 felony which carries a potential sentence of up to three years in prison.Smollett, who was also asked to surrender his passport, is scheduled for his next hearing on March 14.