Entertainment

Jussie Smollett: Timeline of the actor's alleged attack and arrest


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BBC/AFL Films/Simon Frederick

Jussie Smollett has been arrested and charged with filing a false police report, after saying he was attacked in a homophobic and racist incident.

The story has taken quite a few twists and turns since the Empire actor first claimed he was attacked by two men.

Here’s a full timeline of what’s happened since January.

29 January 2019: The alleged incident takes place

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Chicago Police

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The police photo of Jussie Smollett from 21 February 2019

Chicago police say they’re investigating a suspected racist and homophobic attack of Jussie – real name Justin – Smollett by two masked men which happened at about 2am.

They say the actor was punched in the face, had an “unknown chemical substance” poured on him and a rope wrapped around his neck.

Jussie Smollett tells police the two attackers also made reference to MAGA (make America great again) – the slogan often used by President Donald Trump and his supporters.

He goes to a doctor and police describe his condition as “good”.

30 January: An outpouring of support from celebrities

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Media captionAttacked actor ‘has tasted brutality of hatred’

Stars including Viola Davis, Janelle Monae and TI come out with messages of support for the actor.

His Empire co-stars including Grace Byers and Naomi Campbell also show support.

Grace Byers says: “This despicable act only shamefully reveals how deeply the diseases of hatred, inequality, racism and discrimination continue to course through our country’s veins.”

Empire creator Lee Daniels posts and emotional video on Instagram, syaing: “Hold your head up Jussie. I’m with you.”

Comedian Steve Harvey says: “This is about coming to the aid of another brother that has tasted the brutality of hatred and racism and bigotry.”

31 January: Refusing to hand over his phone

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Reuters

Jussie Smollett refuses to hand over his phone to police investigating the attack.

They wanted it to confirm details – including the MAGA references made – as the actor says he was on the phone to his manager at the time.

A day later, the police say: “He’s a victim. We don’t treat him like a criminal.”

They say they won’t demand the phone.

1 February: Jussie Smollett speaks for the first time

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Reuters

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1 February: People come out in support of Jussie Smollett

The actor says he’s “OK” after the incident.

In a statement, he says: “The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”

He adds: “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level.”

Chicago police also release pictures of two “people of interest” they want to speak to.

Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi says “detectives are taking this development seriously”.

2 February: ‘I’m the gay Tupac’

At a concert that had been planned for a long time, Jussie Smollett makes some more comments on the incident.

“I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to,” he says, reading from a piece of paper.

“Just because there has been a lot of stuff said about me that’s absolutely not true.”

Glancing at the balcony, he adds: “I’m sure my lawyer’s sitting up there like ‘No, Jussie, no’.”

He says: “Above all, I fought… back.”

“I’m the gay Tupac,” he finishes, without explaining what he means.

11 February: Phone records submitted

Jussie Smollett gives police a PDF file of his phone records, after they had originally asked for his phone and he’d refused.

But the files are redacted – some bits have been covered up.

The police says there’s no reason to suspect any wrongdoing from Jussie Smollett and are “not even looking at charges regarding filing a false report”.

14 February: ‘Persons of interest’ arrested by police

The two people of interest are arrested and interviewed by the police, but not charged and not treated as suspects.

They are Obabinjo (Ola) and Abimbola (Abel) Osundairo, brothers originally from Nigeria.

They had worked as Empire extras, sometimes going to the gym with the actor, their lawyer says.

Some of the items seized from a police raid of their home include a blackface mask, an Empire script, phone, receipts, a red hat and bleach.

On the same day, an interview with Jussie Smollett is shown on Good Morning America.

He suggests the alleged attackers were white, saying: “If I had said [the attackers] was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more.”

On his refusal to hand over his phone, he says: “I have private pictures and videos and numbers… my private emails, my private songs, my private voice memos.”

And speaking through tears, he says gay people should “learn to fight” these kinds of attacks.

Chicago police say they have “no evidence to support” reports that the attack was staged.

17 February: ‘Trajectory of the investigation’ has shifted

Chicago police say there have been “some developments in this investigation,” a day after they release the Osundairo brothers without charge.

They say they want to speak to “the individual who reported the incident” – Jussie Smollett.

The actor’s lawyers say in a statement: “Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with.”

They add it’s “impossible to believe” that the Osundairos “could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity”.

20 February: Jussie Smollett is charged by police

Chicago police say the actor is charged with “disorderly conduct/filing a false police report”.

Earlier in the day, a reporter in the US obtains footage appearing to show the brothers buying materials, including ski masks, that had allegedly been worn by the people who attacked the actor.

Mr Smollett’s lawyers say they will “conduct a thorough investigation and mount an aggressive defence”.

The rapper 50 Cent, who had previously come out in support of Jussie Smollett, posts a picture on Instagram referencing the actor’s “gay Tupac” comment.

In the picture, he’s put Jussie Smollett’s face over Tupac’s on the album cover for All Eyez On Me – and changed the album name to “all liez on me”.

21 February: Jussie Smollett is arrested

Jussie Smollett hands himself into police and is arrested.

At a press conference, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”.

He adds that the actor did it because he was “dissatisfied with his salary”.

Police claim he also had sent a racist letter to himself at a Fox studio and paid the Osundairo brothers a cheque for $3,500 (£2,600) to stage the attack.

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Media captionChicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson: “Smollett dragged city’s reputation through mud”

Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox, the makers of Empire, issue a statement regarding the future of Jussie Smollett on the show.

“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”

President Donald Trump tweets about the incident, calling the actor’s comments “racist and dangerous”.

When asked about the alleged attack previously, the president had said: “I think that’s horrible. It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.”

Later that day in court, Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke says that the “most vile” part of the incident was the use of a noose.

Smollett’s lawyers issue a strongly-worded statement after the hearing, calling it an “organised law enforcement spectacle”.

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EPA

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Jussie Smollett emerges from the Cook County Court complex after posting 10% of a $100,000 bond in Chicago

22 February: Jussie Smollett is suspended from Empire

The TV show’s executive producers release a statement saying the actor won’t be in the final two episodes of the latest series.

They add that the allegations against him are “disturbing”.

25 February: Cheque called into question

Reporters in the US get hold of a copy of the $3,500 cheque allegedly paid to Abel Osundairo for the attack.

It’s dated 23 January and says: “5 week Nutrition/Workout program (Don’t Go).”

ABC News reports that Don’t Go is the name of a music video Smollett was planning to shoot – which is why he paid the brothers to get him in shape.

1 March: Osundairo brothers ‘regret’ getting involved

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Reuters

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Gloria Schmidt, the lawyer for the Osundairo brothers

A statement from the brothers’ lawyer Gloria Schmidt says they have “tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation”.

It adds: “They understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves.”

13 March: Empire returns

The first new episode of Empire is aired since the alleged attack.

Jussie Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon features in the episode, which is down in the ratings, according to Variety.

He is scheduled to appear in seven of the remaining nine episodes of season five.

14 March: Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty

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Media captionMarch 2019: Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty in court

Jussie Smollett appears in court charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct and pleads not guilty.

He must tell the court if he plans to leave the state of Illinois and is due back in court in mid-April.

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