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Chicago Police running internal probe of leaks in Jussie Smollett investigation

Actor Jussie Smollett in 2017. | AP file photo

Chicago Police have opened an internal investigation into the source of information leaked anonymously to media during the department’s investigation of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett and an alleged hate crime targeting the actor.

Edward Wodnicki, chief of detectives for CPD’s Area Central, started the probe after disorderly conduct charges were filed against the actor in February after a nearly month-long investigation that began when Smollett reported he had been attacked by two men in Streeterville early on Jan. 29 who beat Smollett and shouted racial and homophobic slurs, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Police and prosecutors now say Smollett paid brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo to stage the attack as part of a plan to raise Smollett’s public profile and increase his salary on the Fox TV drama. Smollett has pleaded not guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the CPD leak investigation.

No alleged leakers have so far been identified, Guglielmi said, and no CPD officers or staff have been disciplined for releasing information about the case.

Smollett’s account of the attack immediately sparked questions, if not from Chicago Police, then among the public. Skepticism about Smollett’s claims also permeated social media.

Guglielmi said it would be difficult to identify the sources based on the number of people outside the department who may have had access to case details throughout the investigation: evidence technicians from the State Police; prosecutors; the federal law enforcement agencies; even staff in the court clerk’s office who processed warrants.