Jussie Smollett‘s claim that he was attacked in a hate crime has been unfolding for weeks with updates to racist and homophobic allegations coming on a near-daily basis. Activists, celebrities and presidential candidates have shown their support for him. However, there have been many twists and turns in the investigation, causing speculation to rise.
On Jan. 29, while walking to a Subway, two men reportedly yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the actor after he exited a restaurant, investigators told The Hollywood Reporter. They allegedly punched and poured bleach on Smollett while one of the suspects put a rope around his neck. As they fled the scene, Smollett told police they said, “This is MAGA country.”
From the beginning, the Chicago Police Department appeared to drop the ball with their handling of the case in the media. First, a police spokesperson said there was no footage of the assailants. Then, hours later, there were two “persons of interest” on video. They also claimed the “Empire” actor “refused” to give the cops his phone. All of these inconsistent reports have prompted some to say Smollett fabricated the attack.
Smollett has starred on Fox’s popular series “Empire” since 2015. He plays Jamal, a successful singer in the musical Lyon family who is openly gay. He is also the winner of four NAACP Image Awards and has a long history in social justice and activism.
Most recently, Smollett was the master of ceremonies and event chair for the Black AIDS Institute Gala. The December event raised awareness and funds for the epidemic that infects nearly 40,000 people a year.
“I just feel like Black lives matter and I have to care about black lives in all matters and all forms,” he told HelloBeautiful on the red carpet for the event. “I know there are so many things to care about in this world, but we have to multitask.”
In addition, he was recently in the news for supporting Bennett College—an all-women HBCU that was on the brink of losing its accreditation. The school—which was founded in 1873 and became a women’s institution in 1926—needed to raise $5 million by February 2019 to stay afloat. Smollett and his brother took it upon themselves to use their platforms to spread awareness about Bennett College and motivated individuals to pitch in and help save the school.
Nonetheless, there were still many questions surrounding the attack, with steadily growing suspicions focused on Smollett. See the complete timeline below.
1. January 22, 2019
On January 22, a letter containing a white powder was received by Chicago’s Cinespace Studios, where “Empire” is filmed. The letter prompted a HAZMAT response and the Chicago Police Department said the “white substance” was determined to be aspirin. The cut out letter read, “Jussie Smollett, You will die black fag.”
2. January 29, 2019
TMZ breaks the news that Jussie Smollett was attacked in a possible hate crime. Original reports claimed while walking to a Subway in Chicago, two men reportedly yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the 36-year-old actor after he exited the restaurant. They punched him, allegedly poured bleach on him and one of the suspects also put a rope around his neck.
3. Late January 30, 2019
Hours after the Chicago Police Department says there was no footage of the attack, an unclear image is released of two persons of interest.
4. January 31, 2019Source:WENN
Surveillance footage shows two persons of interest. A neighbor claimed she saw two suspicious people outside of the apartment building she and Smollett live in about 90 minutes before the assault, TMZ reported. She described one of the men as looking like a “redneck” and she saw “what looked like a rope, or a clothesline, protruding from the bottom of his sweatshirt, made of white and blue material.” The neighbor also claimed there was another man about 300 feet away, who near another entrance to the building.
5. February 1, 2019Source:Getty
Chicago Police Department claims that Jussie Smollett did not give his phone to officers. “The sources say cops ‘informally asked’ Jussie if he would surrender his phone … to verify he was talking to his manager on his cell when he was attacked,” TMZ reported. “We’re told he felt ‘uncomfortable’ doing that and declined, but he was never asked about phone records. A Chicago police official had said Jussie refused to turn over both the phone and records. We’re told Smollett has already said he will provide the records, and is in the process of gathering them.”
(Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP)
6. February 3, 2019
Jussie Smollett already had a show scheduled at the Troubadour in the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles before he was attacked on Jan. 29. On Feb. 3, Fortunately, he spoke to the audience and said he fought back against his attackers, saying, “I’m the gay 2Pac.” He also said, “Be as Black, be as proud, be as gay… Now is the time. Be Blacker, be gayer!”
7. February 11, 2019Source:Getty
Reporters from the New York Post, reportedly found an empty bottle with a bleach odor after retracing Jussie Smollett’s path the night of the attack. However, the Chicago Police Department is not sure if the bottle is “related” to the attack. Rumors have started that Smollett staged the attack.
(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
8. February 14, 2019
Smollett sits down for his first TV interview with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America.” He denies all rumors that the attack was a hoax, saying, “I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate. And it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more… And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now. It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.”
9. February 15, 2019Source:WENN
It is reported two men from Nigeria, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were being held by Chicago police as of Feb. 13 but released on Feb. 15. No charges were filed and they are released after producing new evidence, including receipts that indicate they bought the bleach and rope. TMZ reports they were extra on “Empire.”
10. February 16, 2019
The cast reportedly “shifted” to whether the actor staged the attack by allegedly paying the two Nigerian brothers $3500. According to Variety.com, Smollett’s attorney said in a statement, “As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
11. February 20, 2019
Jussie Smollett was classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a false police report. Detectives began presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury.
12. February 21, 2019
13. February 24, 2019Source:Getty
The FBI reportedly tells TMZ that Chicago Police Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson went “too far” and “overstated” when he said the “Empire” actor wrote the hateful Jan. 22 letter to himself and that he paid the Nigerian brothers to stage the attack. It also comes forward that the $3500 that was allegedly paid for the attack was actually for fitness training.
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
14. Later February 21, 2019
Jussie Smollett’s mugshot is released.
15. February 25, 2019
In an interview with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America,” Chicago Police Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explains why he thinks Smollett is guilty. Johnson is slammed by many on social media for going on “Good Morning America” and raises more suspicions about the credibility of the Chicago PD, considering their long, corrupt history.
17. February 28, 2019Source:Getty
The two Nigerian-American brothers released a public statement early on saying they were not homophobic. However, homophobic tweets surfaced that they later deleted and at least three actors on the set of “Empire” confirmed they used homophobic slurs.
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
18. March 1, 2019
Ola and Abel Osundairo issue an apology for the alleged staged attack via their lawyer. CNN.com, reports, “My clients have tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation, and they understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves.”