JUSSIE SMOLLET  continued

it a shocking example of Trump-era hate. Republicans seized on the criminal charges as proof that Democrats had rushed to judgment and unfairly disparaged the president's supporters as bigots.

Smollett's legal team issued a statement Thursday night, calling the actor a "man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence." The statement also said Johnson's Thursday afternoon press conference was "an organized law enforcement spectacle."

"The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett," the statement read.

Prosecutors released a four-page document that outlined their case against Smollett, who plays a gay character on the show that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.

For the alleged hoax, Smollett solicited the help of two muscular brothers. One of them was Abindola "Abel" Osundairo, a friend he worked out with and who worked on the show as a stand-in for another character. He also supplied Smollett with the drug ecstasy, prosecutors said.

"He probably knew he needed somebody with bulk," Johnson said of Smollett's decision to hire the pair.

A few days before Osundairo and his brother, Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, were scheduled to fly to Nigeria, Smollett sent him a text that prosecutors said set the scheme in motion.

"Might need your help on the low," he wrote his friend, according to the document.

During a meeting with the brothers, Smollett told them he wanted the attack to happen Jan. 28 near his apartment in the city's Streeterville neighborhood, and that he wanted them to get his attention by calling out slurs, prosecutors said. He is accused of instructing them to put the rope around his neck, pour gasoline on him and yell the MAGA remark, an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's slogan during the 2016 campaign.

Smollett then gave one of the brothers $100 to buy the rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps that resemble those worn by Trump supporters, according to prosecutors. He drove them to the spot where he wanted the attack to take place, taking time to show them the camera that he said would capture it.

He drove them home, wrote a check to one of the brothers for $3,500 and flew to New York, prosecutors said.

The time of the "attack" was pushed back to 2 a.m. Jan 29 because Smollett's return flight was delayed. The brothers ordered an Uber ride to pick them up at their apartment and climbed into the vehicle toting their supplies, including bleach because there was a decision to use that instead of gasoline, according to prosecutors' summary.

Police know much of this, they said, because Chicago has one of the world's most extensive video surveillance systems. Investigators, in effect, pieced together the route the two men took by cab and foot to and from the scene, Johnson said.

The encounter lasted about 45 seconds. The brothers, Johnson said, "punched him a little bit," but the scratches and bruises that Smollett had on his face were "most likely self-inflicted."

When police arrived, he told them what happened and pointed out the nearby surveillance camera, prosecutors said at the court hearing.

Smollett also tried to mislead police about the suspects, telling them that the area around one attacker's eyes was white skinned, even though the brothers are black, prosecutors said.

Johnson said Smollett used the one of the most terrifying symbols of racial hatred — a noose — that is synonymous with lynchings.

"I'm offended by what happened and I'm also angry," he said.

By the time Smollett appeared on "Good Morning America" on Feb. 14, police already had a pretty good idea that he was lying, thanks to dozens of search warrants, subpoenas and extensive analysis of camera and phone records. They also knew the names of the brothers, and the fact that they had flown to Nigeria and were scheduled to return to Chicago on Feb. 13.

The men were arrested and questioned for hours. At hour 47 — one hour before police had to either charge the men or release them — Johnson said the two confessed to what they had done. They were subsequently released without being charged.