Jussie Smollett: Timeline of events since "Empire" actor reported Chicago attack

By Jason Silverstein

/ CBS News

Police express anger over Jussie Smollett

The alleged attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett has sprawled into nearly a month-long saga of confusing reports and contradictions. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, maintains he was the victim of a brutal hate crime in late January. But after a daily array of twists and turns, he became a suspect, and was charged with a felony for allegedly filing a false police report. A judge has set bond and ordered the actor to surrender his passport.

How did all of this happen?

Here's what went down:

Jan. 22: One week before the reported attack, a letter threatening Smollett arrives at the Fox studio where "Empire" is filmed. The letter, later published by TMZ, contained a homophobic death threat against Smollett spelled out in cut-up letters. The envelope reads "MAGA," an apparent reference to President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

Jan. 29: Chicago police open a hate crime investigation after Smollett, 36, says he was attacked near his Chicago apartment. According to police, Smollett says two men approached him around 2 a.m., shouted "racial and homophobic slurs," poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him and wrapped a noose around his neck.

Police confirm to CBS News that in second interview with police, Smollett told detectives his attackers yelled "This is MAGA country."

Jan. 30: Chicago police release a photo of two "persons of interest" captured on surveillance footage, while noting that the attack itself was not captured.

Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr

— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 31, 2019

Feb. 1: Apparently noting the skepticism that some have raised about the attack, Smollett releases a statement saying he has been "100% factual and consistent on every level." "Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served," he writes.

Feb. 2: Smollett makes his first public appearance since reporting the incident, with a sold-out concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California. He tears up before the set and tells the crowd, "Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love." A meet-and-greet that was scheduled for the show is canceled, with security concerns cited.

Feb. 4: Chicago police release the initial incident report. It says a friend of Smollett, who reported the incident to police, says Smollett "did not want to report offense" but "believed it to be in the best interest to." The report also notes that Smollett still had a rope around his neck when police arrived to interview him. In the report, Smollett says the attackers were wearing black and the "primary aggressor." He says they were wearing a black mask, but he recalls no other "distinguishing features."

Feb. 12: Chicago police say the phone records Smollett gave them were "heavily redacted" and "do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation."

Jussie Smollett seen May 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. Getty

Feb. 14: Smollett appears on ABC's "Good Morning America" for his first television interview since the incident. He tears up in the interview and pushes back on those who have questioned his story. He says "pride" made him reluctant to initially report the incident, and that he was hesitant to give his phone to police because of private information on it.

In a statement, Smollett's lawyer say the redactions were "intended to protect the privacy of personal contacts or high-profile individuals not relevant to the attack."

Chicago police say media reports about the attack being a hoax "are unconfirmed by case detectives. Smollett denies the reports through a spokesperson. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says there is no evidence to support that this was a hoax.

Feb. 15: Chicago police announce they are questioning two "persons of interest" who were seen on surveillance video. But later that day, the two men are released without charges. Police say "new evidence" has given detectives "additional investigative work to complete."

Feb. 16: A source close to the investigation tells CBS News that two Nigerian brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, told detectives Smollett paid them to participate in the attack. They say the rope that was found around Smollett's neck was purchased at a nearby hardware store. A raid of their home turned up ropes, masks and bleach.

Chicago police say their questioning of the brothers had "shifted the trajectory of the investigation," and they requested another interview with Smollett. The actor's attorneys say he is "angered and devastated" by reports that he knew the alleged attackers, and that one of the men was Smollett's personal trainer. Ola Osundairo had played a prisoner in a season of "Empire."

Feb. 17: Chicago police release a vague statement on Twitter: "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."

Feb. 18: Ola and Abel Osundairo, the two brothers previously questioned by police, speak out publicly for the first time. In a statement to CBS Chicago, the brothers say: "We are not racist. We are not homophobic and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens."

Feb. 19: The two brothers were talking to prosecutors, sources told CBS News. The brothers spent the afternoon at the Cook County courthouse. It is not clear if they testified, but they are expected to, according to sources. That could lead to an indictment of Smollett.

Feb. 20: The Cook County, Illinois, state attorney files a felony disorderly conduct charge against Smollett for allegedly filing a false report. This is announced soon after Chicago police confirm Smollett is a suspect in a criminal investigation.

Surveillance footage obtained by CBS Chicago shows the Osundairo brothers buying a red hat and ski masks one day before the reported assault.

Feb. 21: Chicago police say Smollett turned himself in to face charge. A judge sets bond at $100,000 and ordered Smollett to surrender his passport. Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson blasts Smollett at a press conference, saying he is "offended" and "angry" by the apparent hoax.

"I'm left hanging my head and asking why," Johnson says. "Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?"

Jussie Smollett's bond set at $100,000

First published on February 21, 2019

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