Smollett leaves courthouse to a massive swarm of media
Shortly after posting bond, Jessie Smollett left the Chicago courthouse led by what appeared to be a bodyguard and swarmed by a surging group of media.
Jussie Smollett was disappointed with Fox’s reaction to the “racist and homophobic” letter that appeared at Chicago’s “Empire” studio addressed to him — which he actually sent himself — so, he staged an attack, prosecutors said at a news conference after the actor’s bail hearing.
According to Chicago police, Smollett tried to gain attention by sending the false letter, but when that didn’t work Smollett upped the ante, and paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.
Smollett texted Abimbola Osundairo, one of two men involved in the hoax, “Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up to talk face-to-face?”
They later met up and Smollett drove Osundairo in his car. During the ride, Smollett talked about his “displeasure” over the handling of the letter and wanted to “stage an attack,” prosecutors said.
About that letter: Seven days before the alleged attack, the letter was sent to a Chicago studio, where “Empire” is filmed. The letter contained written threats, cutout letters and a powdery substance that turned out to be ibuprofen. In cutout letters, it said, “Smollett, jussie, you will die” and “MAGA” was written as the return address, prosecutors said.
The FBI is conducting forensic analysis of the letter.
Jussie Smollett’s bond was set at $100,000 and the actor must surrender his passport.
Smollett appeared in front of State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., moments ago.
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett gave the two brothers connected to the staged attack $100 to buy supplies, according to text message read in court.
Prosecutors said Smollett asked the brothers to stage the attack, and directed the brothers on what to say, including the MAGA comments. The staged attack lasted 45-seconds. At least a minute later, the brothers are seen catching a ride to leave the scene, prosecutors said.
Police said surveillance video from a beauty supply store captured the day before the assault, appears to show the brothers purchasing a ski mask, sunglasses, a red hat and other items. They paid for the items in cash, according to the owner.
Smollett was seen taking a deep breath as prosecutors continued to read the text messages in court.
The actor appeared in front of State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. wearing the same clothes he wore in his mugshot.
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is at the Cook County Courthouse and his bond hearing is underway, according to CNN’s Nick Watt and Rosalina Nieves, who are in the courtroom.
Smollett, who was wearing a black puffy jacket, gave his name during the hearing as his family stood by.
He was represented by an attorney from Geragos & Geragos law firm.
Political and civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, speaking to reporters, said Jussie Smollett, if liable, “ought to face accountability to the max.”
“If Smollett is wrong, he ought to face accountability to the max. If it turns out another way, it ought to be that way,” he said. “I think that what we have learned is that we have got to always look at these situations.”
He was also asked if Democratic 2020 candidates Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker had jumped too soon to show support of Smollett, prompting Sharpton to question why the attention was on them.
“I think many came out, including President Trump. So again, let’s not segregate who came out. Donald Trump came out and said it was horrible. Now did he not? So why are you only asking me about Booker and, and her? Are we having segregated selection here? A lot of people came out,” he told a reporter.
Harris and Booker both called Smollett’s descriptions of the alleged attack an “attempted modern-day lynching.”
After the alleged attack, the President also responded, calling it “horrible.” But today, Trump turned his criticism to Smollett following the actor’s arrest, saying he made “dangerous comments.”
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett — who faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report claiming two men attacked him last month — is scheduled to have a bail hearing at 2:30 p.m. ET.
We’ll be covering the hearing right here.
Under Illinois law, filing a false police report is disorderly conduct and punishable by one to three years in prison.
Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television released a new statement, saying they are considering their options following the latest in the Jussie Smollett case:
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
The companies produce “Empire,” which Smollett stars in.
President Trump just tweeted about Jussie Smollett’s arrest, calling him out for claiming his attackers were Trump supporters.
Read the President’s tweet:
What Smollett alleged happened: In an interview with ABC that aired on last Thursday, Smollett said one of the attackers said, “‘This MAGA country, n****r’ and he punched me in the face so I punched his a** back.”
The star theorized that he had been targeted because of his vocal criticism against President Trump and his administration, telling Roberts, “I come really hard against 45.”
Edward Wodnick, commander of the area central detective division, detailed the Chicago police department’s extensive investigation into Jussie Smollett’s hate crime allegations.
Here’s a brief timeline:
- Morning of Jan. 29: Jussie Smollett reports he was the victim of a hate crime.
- The allegations: Police interview him at the hospital. He says two people yelled racial, homophobic and political statements at him, beat him, put a noose on his neck, threw bleach on him and fled, according to Wodnick. Smollett had scratches on his face.
- The investigation: Police launched a hate crime investigation and found two people of interest on a video. Investigators issued a community alert for information on them and searched the area for cameras and witnesses. They interviewed more than 100 people and found more than 55 cameras. “The city came together to investigate and help the police with this crime,” Wodnick said.
- Persons of interest found: After reviewing the cameras, police discovered the alleged offenders fled in a cab, which detectives tracked down. Investigators interviewed the cab driver and got video from the cab. Police tracked their movements to a ride share, and it eventually led them to what “we needed in order to identify the two persons of interest,” Wodnick said.
- Suspects arrested: Investigators later learned that they were going to the O’Hare International Airport and were catching a flight to Nigeria. The alleged offenders purchased roundtrip tickets with them returning to Chicago on Feb.13. As police waited for them to return, they issued more than 50 search warrants and subpoenas. Police took them into custody when they reentered the country at US customs.
- “Something smelled fishy”: The men’s attorney told police that “something smelled fishy” and that “she did not think that they were the offenders as were reported,” Wodnick said. She allowed police to give them a video interview and said “she worked with us very, very closely to get to the point where she came to me and said, ‘They are not offenders. They are victims,'” Wodnick said.
- No longer suspects: Police worked with the men to get a timeline and document their story. “We were able to substantiate those things,” Wodnick said. The men were released and police went to the grand jury.
- The grand jury investigation: Police worked with the state attorney’s office and went to the grand jury. The two men instead served as witnesses. Smollett’s attorneys contacted police and said they had evidence to postpone the grand jury, Wodnick said. Detectives met with them but they gave no new information, Wodnick said.
- Charges filed: State attorney’s office approved a felony charge against Smollett for disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.
- Today at 6 a.m. ET: Smollett turned himself in.
Asked what he thought would be justice in this case, police superintendent Eddie Johnson said an apology to the city would be a start.
Johnson pointed out, multiple times, the man-hours Chicago police poured into this case, and police were “pissed” when they learned Jussie Smollett’s true motive.
Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said he hasn’t seen the entire interview “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett did with ABC’s “Good Morning America” — but he said the parts he did see were “shameful.”
In the interview, Smollett said he was “forever changed” by the incident and was “pissed off” by both the attack and the doubt that has been cast over his story.
He described the alleged attack and said one of the attackers said, “‘This MAGA country, n****r'” during the incident.
Jussie Smollett spoke to his alleged attackers “an hour or so” before the incident and after, according to Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson, who was citing phone records.
Smollett reportedly paid the men, who are two brothers, to stage the attack in Chicago. One of the brothers works on the show “Empire” with Smollett.
Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said his department was “pissed off” when they discovered Jussie Smollett’s actual motive.
Moments ago, Johnson said the “Empire” actor staged the attack on himself because he was unhappy with his salary. Smollett was treated as a victim until police learned more details, Johnson said.
Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said police did not give Jussie Smollett’s reported hate crime any extra attention or effort — officers treated it the way they treat every hate crime.
“Any time a hate crime is reported in the city of Chicago, it gets the same attention. This didn’t get any special attention. You all gave this more attention specifically than we do,” he said, referring to the media while speaking to reporters at a news conference.
Johnson added that police “didn’t pull resources from shootings or homicide investigations” in order to investigate Smollett’s report. Those officers work on different teams, he said.
According to Chicago police, Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to two brothers to stage an attack.
The alleged attack went down on the street. The two men, who were wearing gloves, punched Smollett “a little bit,” superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
However, the scratches and bruises on his face were likely self-inflicted, according to Johnson.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel just released a statement on the Smollett investigation:
“I want to thank all of the Chicago police officers who have worked on this case, and all of the private citizens and business owners who have stepped forward with information and video evidence to help us get to the bottom of what was reported as a hate crime.
All across Chicago, in every neighborhood, there are signs in front yards and in windows that read, “Hate Has No Home Here.” It is a sign that expresses our shared values and defines our great city. Chicago’s message to the world is that no matter where you come from, who you love, or how you pray you will always have a home here. Our laws exist to reflect and defend those values, and hate crimes will never be tolerated. A single individual who put their perceived self-interest ahead of these shared principles will never trump Chicago’s collective spirit.”
Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett staged the alleged attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”
Smollett first “attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language,” an apparent reference to a letter sent to the “Empire” set in the days before the attack.
“When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” Johnson said. “And why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked.”
Jussie Smollett was reportedly unsatisfied with his salary on “Empire” and paid $3,500 to stage the attack on himself, according to police superintendent Eddie Johnson.
He added that Smollett send a “false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language.”
Johnson said Smollett was treated “as a victim” until evidence pointed in a different direction.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Jussie Smollett ” took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
“Bogus police reports cause real harm,” he said.
Here’s how he introduced the case at today’s press briefing:
“This announcement today recognizes that empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left hanging my head and asking why.”
He continued: “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?”
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson opened today’s news briefing about Jussie Smollett’s arrest by pointing out the man-hours spent on this case.
Some background: The city has struggled to contain violence in almost every major category of crime since 2016.
Chicago saw a significant drop in murders and gun violence for the second year in a row, according to police. Across the city, there were 100 fewer murders than in 2017, when 650 people were killed. Overall crime is down 10% since 2016, the year Chicago recorded its highest murder rate in two decades, with 762 people killed.
Chicago Police credit the drop in violence partly to “investments in data-driven policing and the creation of strategic decision support centers in 20 of the city’s 22 police districts,” according to a Chicago police news release.
Jussie Smollett told “Good Morning America” last week he was “forever changed” by the incident and was “pissed off” by both the attack and the doubt that has been cast over his story.
In an interview with Robin Roberts that aired on Thursday, Smollett said one of the attackers said, “‘This MAGA country, n****r’ and he punched me in the face so I punched his a** back.”
He also said he respects victims of hate crimes too much to lie about what happened.
The star theorized that he had been targeted because of his vocal criticism against President Trump and his administration, telling Roberts, “I come really hard against 45.”
Chicago police will hold a news briefing at 10 a.m. ET on the latest developments surrounding Jussie Smollett’s case.
Smollett was arrested today on suspicion of filing a false report after claiming he was attacked by two men and was the victim of a hate.
The “Empire” star was taken into custody around 6 a.m. ET, police said, ahead of a 2:30 p.m. bail hearing.
Ahead of the briefing, police released Smollett’s mugshot:
Law enforcement sources tell CNN that police now believe Jussie Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate an assault on him.
Surveillance video from Jan. 28 obtained from a Chicago-area beauty supply store appears to show the two men connected to the incident purchasing a ski mask, sunglasses, a red hat and other items the day before the alleged assault.
They paid for the items in cash, according to the owner, who did not want to be identified.
The two men questioned by police — identified as brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo — were initially arrested on Feb. 13 but released without charges after police cited the discovery of “new evidence.” They’ve met with police and prosecutors at a Chicago courthouse, police spokesman Tom Ahern said.
The two are no longer suspects at this time, Chicago police have said. The brothers’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, told reporters Wednesday that her clients had not accepted a plea deal or immunity. Police sources said the brothers are cooperating with law enforcement.
In a joint statement issued to CNN affiliate WBBM, the men said: “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.”
One of the men has appeared on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. A police source also told CNN the men had a previous affiliation with Smollett but did not provide additional details.
Jussie Smollett has stood by his initial claims that he was attacked.
He received an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians immediately after he reported the alleged attack. But the backlash and doubters grew louder, with social media users questioning his claims of the attack especially after police said they could not find video of the incident from surveillance cameras in the area.
Police now believe Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate an assault on him, two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN this week.
By Wednesday, Chicago police said they were looking into the incident as a possible hoax. The announcement came the same day the Cook County grand jury met to review evidence of the incident.
Attorneys for Jussie Smollett released a statement last night, saying the actor has denied playing a role in his attack.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” his attorneys said in a statement.
More than three weeks after he alleged that he was the victim of a hate crime, actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested on suspicion of filing a false report about it, Chicago police said Thursday morning.
The “Empire” star was taken into custody around 5 a.m. CT, police said, ahead of a 1:30 p.m. bail hearing.
Smollett faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming he was attacked by two men, including one who was masked, in the early morning of Jan. 29 in Chicago. He alleged they yelled racist and homophobic slurs, tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him.
At the time, police said they were treating the attack against the black and gay actor as a hate crime.
But in the weeks since the alleged attack first made headlines, the narrative has unraveled with several twists, transforming him from a victim to a suspect.