Key moments in the case against actor Jussie Smollett
CHICAGO (AP) — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett told Chicago police in January that two men physically attacked him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs. Some key moments in the story:
— Smollett, who is black and gay and plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the Fox TV show, receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the Chicago studio where “Empire” is filmed. Police later say that they believe Smollett sent the letter himself.
— Smollett tells police he was attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago while walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at 2 a.m. He says the men beat him, used racial and homophobic slurs, poured an unknown substance on him and wrapped a noose around his neck before fleeing. Police say Smollett also told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan that some Trump critics have decried as racist and discriminatory.
— Police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack. Police obtain and release images of two people they would like to question, calling them “persons of interest.”
— Reports of an assault on Smollett draw outrage and support for him on social media from some politicians and celebrities.
— Trump tells reporters at the White House that he saw a story the night before about Smollett, saying, “It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.”
— Smollett’s family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime. They say he “has told the police everything” and “his story has never changed,” disputing accusations leveled on social media that he had been less than cooperative and changed his story.
— Smollett issues a statement telling people he’s OK and thanking them for their support. He says he’s working with authorities and has been “100 percent factual and consistent on every level.”
— Smollett, who is also an R&B singer, gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech in which he said he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
— Police say Smollett turned over some, but not all, of the phone records detectives requested as part of their investigation. Police say the heavily redacted files aren’t sufficient. Smollett says he redacted information to protect the privacy of contacts and people not relevant to the attack.
— Chicago police pick up two men they identify as Nigerian brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on their return from Nigeria after police learn at least one worked on “Empire.” Police question the brothers and search their apartment.
— Police say local media reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed.
— Producers of “Empire” dispute media reports that Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show.
— Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says the two “persons of interest” are now considered suspects. He says the men are in custody but have not been charged with a crime.
— Police release the two men without charges after arresting them on suspicion of assaulting Smollett and holding them for nearly 48 hours. Guglielmi says the two are no longer considered suspects and that investigators have new evidence to consider as a result of questioning them.
— Police say the investigation has “shifted” after the questioning of the two brothers and that they’ve requested a follow-up interview with Smollett. Smollett’s lawyers say the actor feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.
— Police investigate a tip that on the night Smollett reported being attacked, he was in an elevator at his apartment building with the two Nigerian brothers. Police later dismiss the tip, saying it’s not credible based on video evidence.
— Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recuses herself from the investigation. Her office says the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution ... to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.” Foxx later says the reason for the recusal is that she had conversations with a Smollett family member after the incident was reported in late January.
— Police say Smollett is officially suspected of filing a false police report by claiming he was attacked and that a grand jury was being presented with evidence from detectives and hearing testimony from the two brothers.
— Police say the Cook County State’s Attorney has charged Smollett with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report and that detectives had reached out to Smollett’s attorneys to arrange his surrender.
— Police say Smollett turned himself in to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, which could bring up to three years in prison.
— Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity to further his career. Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the brothers to help him.
— Producers of “Empire” say Jussie Smollett’s character will be removed from the final two episodes of this season.
— The grand jury returns a 16-count indictment charging Smollett with filing a false police report.
— Smollett pleads not guilty during a hearing in which Judge Steven Watkins is assigned to oversee the case, including the trial.
Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.