What We Know So Far About The Jussie Smollett Investigation
Chicago Police have reportedly "shifted the trajectory" of the Jussie Smollett investigation -- here's what we know.
The Alleged Attack
Empire actor Jussie Smollett told police that he was attacked at 2am on January 29 while walking home from a Subway restaurant in Chicago.
Smollett said he was targeted by two attackers who tied a noose around his neck and doused him with an unknown chemical substance. The actor told police that the pair shouted "this is MAGA country" during the alleged ordeal, in reference to President Donald Trump's 'Make America Great Again' slogan.
Supporters of Smollett -- including Empire co-creator Danny Strong -- denounced the reported attack against the black and openly gay actor as "racist" and "homophobic" on Twitter.
Celebrities including Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Hart, Alyssa Milano, Michael B. Jordan, Billy Eichner, and Halle Berry similarly denounced the alleged attack on social media.
February 3: Smollett Performs In LA, Addresses Attack
A few days after the alleged crime, Smollett made an emotional appearance at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. During his performance, Smollett clarified details about the January 29 incident, following mixed reports from the media.
The actor explained that he was "bruised but my ribs were not cracked, they were not broken" and that he attended a doctor but was not hospitalised.
"I couldn't let those motherf***ers win. So I will always stand for love. I will never stand for anything other than that," an emotional Smollett told the LA crowd.
Smollett Speaks Out On 'Good Morning America'
In his first TV interview since the alleged attack, Smollett explained that he was targeted by the Chicago attackers after they recognised him as an Empire cast member.
“I heard, as I was crossing the intersection, I heard, ‘Empire,‘ ” Smollett said during the February 14 interview. “I don’t answer to Empire. My name ain’t Empire and I didn’t answer. I kept walking. And then I heard, ‘F***ing Empire n*****.’ ”
Smollett said he was punched in the face by one of the masked attackers and that he "punched his a** back" in the ordeal that lasted approximately 30 seconds.
The actor went on to explain during the in-depth interview that after the attackers ran off, "I looked down and see that there was a rope around my neck, I hadn't noticed it before".
Smollett said he called the police from his apartment, where he noticed that he "smelled bleach" and realised the substance had been poured on his clothing.
FOX Hits Out At Rumours That Smollett Is Being Written Off Empire
Chicago's ABC7 reported on February 14 that they had been informed by "multiple" yet unnamed sources that police were investigating whether Smollett had staged the attack because he was being written off Empire.
Fox Entertainment -- the network that airs the TV series -- strongly denied the report.
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous,” said 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment via Deadline. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
Two Suspects Arrested, Then Released
Two Nigerian men -- brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo -- were arrested on Wednesday, February 13 in Chicago after being characterised as "persons of interest". Police said they had "probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime."
The pair was arrested at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport after returning from a trip to Nigeria and their apartment was searched for evidence. The brothers were released without charge on Friday "due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations" Chicago Police wrote on Twitter.
The Osundairos attorney -- Gloria Schmidt -- said "new evidence" had been brought to the attention of police.
The Investigation 'Shifts'
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed in a statement on Saturday, February 16 that the investigation had changed course.
"We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has, in fact, shifted the trajectory of the investigation. We've reached out to the Empire cast member's attorney to request a follow-up interview."
Smollett Addresses Hoax Accusations
The 'Empire' actor said he is "devastated" by claims that he staged his own assault.
"Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," a statement from lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said.
"He has now been further victimised 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 investigation continues.
Main Image: Getty Images.