Statement Analysis®

Was Jussie Smollett attacked?


Normally, I would not post this analysis yet but I have been getting a lot of emails asking me about the attack on Jussie Smollett.

On January 29, 2019 around 2:00 a.m., actor Jussie Smollett left a Subway restaurant in the Streeterville neighborhood in the Near North Side area of Chicago, IL. Shortly after he left the restaurant , he was attacked by two people yelling racial and homophobic slurs. The two offenders poured an unknown substance on him and wrapped a rope around his neck before fleeing.

Some people have questioned if Smollett was attacked. This is because Smollett allegedly would not let the police look at his phone in order to verify he was talking to his manager at the time of the attack. Also, when the police arrived at the scene, Smollett still had the rope wrapped around his neck. Family members have said he didn't remove it because he wanted to preserve any evidence. So, was Smollett attacked? Let's look at what Smollett had to say about the attack.

On February 1, 2019, the internet was full of headlines from news organizations about the attack on Smollett. The BBC News read, "Jussie Smollett Speaks About 'Racist and Homophobic' Attack for First Time." The NY Times said, "Jussie Smollett Releases First Statement About Chicago Attack." When you read these articles, you find that Smollett doesn't talk about the specific attack. He tells us he is "Ok." That his "body is strong but my soul is stronger." He thanks people for loving him and supporting him. He says he is cooperating with the police. However, Smollett never talks about the attack. He doesn't tell us what happened to him. Anything you have heard about the attack came from the police or his family. So unfortunately, as of February 2, 2019, we have nothing to analyze. That too raises some suspicion. I am sure Smollett will eventually give an interview and talk about the attack. We will have to wait and see what he says.



Update

On February 15, 2109, Jussie Smollett spoke with Robin Roberts with ABC News. Here is how Smollett described the attack.

"I see the ah attacker ah masked and he said this MAGA county n***er. Punches me right in the face. So, I punched his ass back. And then um we started tussling you know it was very icy, and we ended up tussling by the stairs, ah fighting, fighting, fighting. There was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back, and ah then it just stopped and they ran off and I saw where they ran. And the phone was in my pocket but it had fallen out and it was sitting there. And my manager was still on the phone. So, I picked up the phone and I said, 'Brandon? ' and he's like 'What's going on? ' And I said, 'I was just jumped.'"


"I see the ah attacker ah masked and he said this MAGA county n***er. "
(In the interview I saw, the last word was bleeped out but we can figure out what he said.)

When describing something that happened, the rules of grammar require us to use past tense language. If the statement is coming from memory, it will be easy for a person to use past tense verbs. Smollett used the present tense verb "see." He should have said, "I saw the attacker." While this could be due to poor grammar skills, it is an indication this portion of his statement is not coming from memory.

His use of the article "the" is acceptable since earlier in his statement he said that someone yelled at him. Twice he used the interjection "ah" which indicates he is pausing for time to think about what to say next. When the statement is coming from memory, we generally do not see these types of pauses.

Saying that attacker was "masked" is unusual. Most people would probably say something like, "He was wearing a mask. "


"Punches me right in the face."

The verb "punches" is in the present tense. He should have said, "Punched me right in the face." We don't know who punched him in the face. This sentence does not have a subject. We would expect him to say, "He punched me right in the face." Or, "The attacker punched me right in the face."


"So, I punched his ass back and then um we started tussling you know it was very icy, and we ended up tussling by the stairs, ah fighting, fighting, fighting."

Generally, when a person gives a statement, he will tell us what happened. When a person tells us why something happened, this is considered to be out-of-bounds and indicates sensitivity within the statement. We see this with his use of the word "so."

The word "then" can mean "immediately" which is probably how it is used here. However, this word can also mean "afterward" in which we do not know how much time went by.

We have two more pauses with the interjections "um" and "ah."

Everyone knows the pronoun "we" indicates plurality. What people sometimes forget is that this pronoun also indicates a partnership. It means that two people cooperated and did something together. Most victims of a crime will not use the pronoun "we." They are not going to partner-up with their attacker. Most people would say something like, "I punched his ass back and then I grabbed him" or "I punched his ass back and fought him."

The word "started" means there was a break in the action. That is obvious in this case since at some point they stopped tussling. It would have been better and showed more commitment to the statement had he not used the word "started" and used the past tense verb "tussled."

Smollett used the phrase "you know." Some people have a habit of using this phrase and it will appear throughout their statement. Other people will use this phrase because they want you to take for granted what they are saying is true. However, we take nothing for granted. I don't recall Smollett using this phrase very often.

The words "fighting, fighting, fighting" are in the present tense. His statement, "We ended up tussling" is in the past tense because of the word "ended." If we group the words "fighting" with that sentence, then that would place them in the past tense.

Smollett had a change in language from "tussling" to "fighting." There are no synonyms in Statement Analysis. Every word means something different. Truthful people will usually use the same language. If the language changes in a truthful statement, there will be a justification for the change. I don't see a justification for saying they were "tussling" and then saying they were "fighting." Therefore, we lean towards possible deception. We also see he doesn't give us any details as to how they were fighting.


"There was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back, and ah then it just stopped and they ran off and I saw where they ran."

He again pauses to think about what to say. We don't know how much time went by before the attack stopped.

He used the word "it" which seems unusual. He may be describing the attack itself; "It stopped." However, most people would probably say, "They stopped." If there were no attackers, then it is harder to say, "They stopped" and easier to say, "It stopped."

The unique word "just" is often used to minimize things. It is acceptable to use this word to minimize time; "He just left the building." When people use this word to minimize their actions, it is an indication they may have done more than what they have told us. In Smollett's statement, we're not sure if he is minimizing time or his or the attacker's actions.


"And the phone was in my pocket but it had fallen out and it was sitting there. And my manager was still on the phone. So, I picked up the phone and I said, 'Brandon? ' and he's like 'What's going on? ' And I said, 'I was just jumped.'"

In this portion of his statement, we find a couple of unique words that I usually do not talk about in my seminars. Smollett had been on his cellphone talking to his manager at the time of the attack. Apparently, he put the phone in his pocket when the attack began. The use of the unique word "phone" often ties the person to the crime scene. If you witnessed a crime, you might call 911 on your cellphone. In your statement to the police you would probably mention this. The word "cellphone" ties you to the crime scene but in an innocent way. For others though, the use of this word ties them to the crime scene in a not so innocent way.

Although it doesn't show much action, the unique word "sitting" is a verb which indicates a state of being. When this word is used to describe an inanimate object, it indicates possible deception. This is because phones are not capable of sitting. I did a study on the unique word "sitting" and found that 47% of the time, a truthful person did use this word to describe an inanimate object; "When I walked into his house, the drugs were sitting on the table." For some people, this is part of their vernacular. A lot of people (or at least 47%) might say, "The remote is sitting on the TV." So, Smollett's use of this word in regards to his cellphone is an indication of deception but not a strong indication.

Conclusion

We find enough deceptive indicators in Smollett's statement to conclude he is being deceptive about the attack.



Update

On February 17, 2019, ABC News reported that two brothers told the Chicago police they were paid by Jussie Smollett to stage an attack on him. The police are attempting to corroborate their statement.

Update

On February 21, 2019, Jussie Smollett was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report in connection to his claim he was attacked on January 29, 2019. The police believe a week earlier Smollett sent himself a racist and homophobic letter hoping to get attention from his studio. When that didn't work, it is alleged Smollett paid two brothers to stage the attack.



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