Everything We Know So Far in the Case of Jussie Smollett's Alleged Attack
The case gained national attention, with people coming out in support of Jussie Smollett and others criticizing the story that has taken several turns.
It's been nearly three weeks since "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett reported to police that he was attacked by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs. The case gained national attention, with people coming out in support of Smollett and others criticizing the story that has taken several turns.
Here is what we know so far about the case.
Jan. 29: Alleged Attack
Smollett was leaving a Chicago restaurant about 2 a.m. when he was approached by two unknown men yelling racial and homophobic slurs, police said at the time. TMZ reported that one man yelled yelled “Aren’t you that f****** ‘Empire’ n*****?”
After gaining Smollett’s attention, the men punched him and poured an unknown chemical substance on him, police said. At one point during the attack, one of the suspects wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck, according to police. TMZ also reported the substance was bleach and that one of the men yelled “This is MAGA country,” referencing President Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again.”
TMZ reported at the time that both suspects were white and wearing ski masks.
At the time, Chicago police said in a statement, “Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime."
Jan. 31: Persons of Interest
Police showed grainy surveillance pictures of two men dressed in black in Chicago and said they are potential persons of interest. Police said the men appeared to follow Smollett after he left the restaurant at 2 a.m., around the time Smollett said he was attacked.
Another security camera showed Smollett returning home with a rope around his neck.
Smollett's manager told police he was on the phone with his client and heard the attack go down. He said he heard the racial slurs and the shout, “This is MAGA country,” but both Smollett and his manager reportedly refused to hand over their phones to investigators.
Feb. 1: Smollett Publicly Addresses Alleged Attack
Smollett released a statement three days after he said he was attacked. "I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern I still believe that justice will be served," he said.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also addressed some of the skepticism about Smollett's account of the attack.
Johnson was asked by reporters, “based on the information that detectives have, can you confirm that an attack happened?”
“We don’t have anything that we have been able to view but I will say this, he's a victim right now. And we'll treat him like a victim. He's been very co-operative and we have no reason to think that he is not being genuine with us,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that he hopes the surveillance images will lead to arrests.
Feb. 2: Smollett Performs in Los Angeles
Smollett was showered with love as he appeared at the Troubadour club in Los Angeles. It was his first public appearance since the alleged attack, and he addressed the crowd from the stage.
"There are so many words on my heart that I want to say," he said. "The most important that I can say, to keep it simple, thank you so much. I’m OK ... I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to. I’m going to stand strong with y’all."
He added, "Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love. I hope that you all stand with me."
"I was bruised, but my ribs were not cracked. I went to the doctor immediately. I was not hospitalized," he said.
He added, "Above all, I fought the f*** back."
Feb. 14: Smollett Tells His Story on 'Good Morning America'
Smollett was in tears as he talked about the alleged attack with “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts. He addressed questions being raised about the incident and said he is “pissed off” about being attacked.
“At first, it was a thing of, like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth then that's it, 'cause it's the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you — how do you not believe that? It's the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, 'Oh. It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth; you don't even want to see the truth,'” Smollett said.
A photo released at the time showed a rope burn on Smollett's neck and a cut and bruise on his cheek.
He said he hoped the attack itself had been caught on a surveillance camera nearby.
“The detective told me the camera inside of the casing was facing north. So they didn’t have it. So that was disappointing,” he said.
As “Good Morning America" was still on the air, police revealed they were questioning the two "persons of interest" caught on surveillance footage.
But then at 7 p.m., police said they were "investigating ... whether an attack happened at all."
Feb. 15: Two Men Arrested
On Friday at 8 a.m., police said, "There is no evidence to say this is a hoax."
“While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is no evidence to say that this is a hoax,” Guglielmi told the Los Angeles Times in a statement. “The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect.”
Authorities then said they arrested two brothers in connection with Smollett's alleged attack. Police said the men are the shadowy figures caught on surveillance footage.
The men were identified as 25-year-old Abel Osundairo and brother Ola Osundairo, 27, both from Nigeria. They denied any wrongdoing.
"Detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime and we are working to corroborate the allegations and investigative timeline as our investigation continues," Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielimi said in a statement.
Both men have links to Smollett and have appeared as extras on “Empire.”
The brothers flew to Nigeria hours after the alleged attack. They returned to Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Feb. 13, where detectives were waiting for them.
Police searched their apartment in Chicago hours later. A handwritten inventory shows they took away bleach, black face mask, a red hat, an “Empire” script, a laptop and receipts.
Chicago police later tweeted that the men had been released without charges "due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations."
Feb. 17: Brothers Reportedly Tell Police Smollett Paid Them
CBS News reported that, according to a source close to the investigation, the brothers who were arrested last week told police the actor paid them to participate in the alleged attack and that they purchased the rope found around Smollett's neck at a nearby hardware store. The source added that police have evidence to corroborate the sale.
ABC News also reported that the men told police they were paid. The network added that police are trying to corroborate the men's account but they have not been able to independently verify the information.
Several outlets, including the New York Times and the Associated Press, reported that Chicago police's investigation into Smollett's alleged attack “shifted” because of information received from the two brothers.
"While we are not in a position to confirm, deny or comment on the validity of what's been unofficially released, there are some developments in this investigation and detectives have some follow-ups to complete which include speaking to the individual who reported the incident," Chicago Police Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter Sunday afternoon.
However, in a statement to multiple outlets, Smollett’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson maintain he was the victim of a crime.
"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," the statement read. "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."
The statement continued: “At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to 'unnamed' sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels."
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