Actor Jussie Smollett told Chicago police in January that two men attacked him near his apartment building in Streeterville, slipping a noose around his neck and yelling racial and homophobic slurs. More than three weeks later, authorities said they believed Smollett was lying and charged him with disorderly conduct, alleging he filed a false police report. On March 26, prosecutors announced they were dropping charges against Smollett, who said he had been “consistent and truthful” from day one.
Here are some key moments:
Jan. 22, 2019
— The week before he says he was attacked in Streeterville, Smollett reported receiving an envelope addressed to him at production studios on Chicago’s West Side. The envelope was postmarked in southwest suburban Bedford Park four days earlier, on Jan. 18. The letters “MAGA” were written, in red ink, in the return address section of the envelope. Smollett told police he and the show’s executive producer used gloves to open the envelope. Inside was a threat in cut-out letters: “You will die black (expletive).” There was white powder in the envelope, but it was determined to be crushed pain reliever, according to police.
— Smollett reports he was attacked by two men while out getting food from a Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m. The actor, black and openly gay, said he was walking back to his apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street when two men walked up, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, declared “This is MAGA country,” hit him and wrapped a noose around his neck.
— Chicago police report they have at least a dozen detectives reviewing hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none of the videos show the attack. Police release images of two people in the area at the time whom they would like to question. The two people were captured by a surveillance camera on New Street near Illinois Street between 1:30 and 1:45 a.m. Smollett said he was attacked about 15 to 30 minutes later around the corner. The images, however, are dark, and faces indistinguishable.
— President Donald Trump tells reporters at the White House that he saw a story the evening before about Smollett and that, "It doesn't get worse, as far as I'm concerned."
— Despite the support of celebrities and politicians, skepticism continues to grow on social media. Smollett's family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime. The family says he "has told the police everything" and "his story has never changed," disputing assertions on social media that he has been less than cooperative and has changed his story.
— Smollett issues a statement telling people that he is OK and thanking them for their support. He says he is working with authorities and has been "100 percent factual and consistent on every level."
— Smollett gives a concert in West Hollywood, Calif., his first performance since the reported attack. "I had to be here tonight, y'all. I can't let (them) win," he said, visibly fighting tears. "I have so many words in my heart. The most important thing I have to say is thank you so much and that I'm OK. I'm not fully healed yet, but I'm going to. And I'm gonna stand strong with y'all.” Smollett also said he had to play the show because he “couldn't let his attackers win.”
— Chicago police say Smollett turned over some, but not all, of the phone records that the detectives requested as part of their investigation. Smollett has said his music manager was on the phone with him at the time of the attack and can corroborate this story. But police say the heavily redacted files aren't sufficient. Smollett says the information was redacted to protect the privacy of contacts and people not relevant to the attack.
— Smollett gives a national television interview on “Good Morning America,” seeking to put doubts to rest about whether he was attacked. “You do such a disservice when you lie about things like this,” Smollett told “GMA” co-anchor Robin Roberts. "I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I so resent that narrative,” he told Roberts. “I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.” He says he is convinced that the men in the surveillance images were his attackers. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.”
— Chicago police announce hours later that detectives are interviewing the two "persons of interest" captured on video. A law enforcement source said the two men, brothers in their 20s, were brought in for questioning Wednesday night from O’Hare International Airport after arriving from Nigeria. One of them worked as an extra on “Empire,” the source said.
— Chicago police later say local media reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed.
— Producers of "Empire" dispute media reports that Smollett's character was being written off the show.
— Early in the day, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says the two "persons of interest" are now considered potential suspects. He says the men are in custody but have not been charged with a crime.
— Twelve hours later, police release the brothers, saying they no longer were considered suspects. “Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Guglielmi said in a tweet. He did not say what the evidence was or what work detectives still must do.
— A law enforcement source says Chicago police are now investigating whether Smollett paid the two brothers to stage an attack, following up on information provided by the two while they were in custody. Investigators also have been given new details about the rope that Smollett said was made into a noose and placed around his neck as he walked toward his apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street, the source said. Detectives had been searching area retailers to find the source of the rope but the new information allowed them to narrow their search and find where it was sold, the source said.
— The attorney for the brothers, Gloria Schmidt, is asked whether Smollett set up the attack. “There’s still a lot of moving parts to this. … I’m not part of Jussie’s defense," she said. "I’m not part of what’s going on with him. I can just tell you that my guys (are) innocent of the charge and they’re going home."
— The actor issues a strongly worded statement late Saturday insisting the attack happened. "Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has 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." The statement said one of the brothers was Smollett's personal trainer, the first time he has acknowledged knowing either of them. The two also reportedly worked with Smollett on “Empire.”
— In another twist in the investigation, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx recuses herself from the case as prosecutors in her office began questioning two brothers who had been possible suspects. Foxx says she made the decision "out of an abundance of caution" because of her "familiarity with potential witnesses in the case."
— Hours before Foxx’s statement, the two brothers who had been under arrest appeared at the criminal courthouse to talk to prosecutors and detectives, authorities said. They and their attorney were seen near the grand jury rooms Tuesday afternoon, but police said they did not appear before it.
—Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report about the attack, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said. Hours earlier, the Chicago Police Department announced that Smollett was officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a false police report, a felony.
— New details emerge about why Foxx recused herself: In a statement, one her aides says the Cook County state’s attorney “had conversations with a family member of Jussie Smollett about the incident” after the initial report of the attack and “facilitated a connection to the Chicago Police Department who were investigating the incident.”
— Former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, whom Foxx defeated in 2016 to win the chief prosecutor job, takes a shot at Foxx on Facebook for her recusal. Alvarez writes, “Maybe I should have just recused myself from the difficult cases that came across my desk when I was state's attorney. I was under the impression that when the voters elected me and I took my oath of office it meant I had to do my job.”
— Before Smollett was called a suspect, Fox television says Smollett “continues to be a consummate professional on set,” and it has reiterated that he is not being written out of the show.
— Smollett surrenders to Chicago police and is arrested in the early morning hours. He is booked and his mug shot is taken.
— In a forceful news conference, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett faked both the threatening letter and the attack because “he was dissatisfied with his salary” on the show. Johnson, who is African-American, calls the alleged hoax “despicable” and says Smollett “dragged Chicago’s reputation through the mud.” He also reprimands the assembled media for not paying as much attention to each case of gun violence in the city as has been paid to the Smollett case.
— A Cook County prosecutor reads the state’s detailed case — known as a proffer — to assembled media at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
— An African-American Cook County judge, noting the presumption of innocence, rebukes Smollett while setting his bond at $100,000. Smollett will have to post $10,000 cash and surrender his passport to leave lock-up, which he posts later in the afternoon and is released.
— Smollett heads to the “Empire” set at studios on the West Side, where cast members and crew are shooting the final episodes of Season 5. His legal team releases a statement slamming police and maintaining Smollett’s innocence: “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
— “Empire” executive producers announce Smollett will not appear in the final episodes of the show’s fifth season, saying in a statement, “We have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”
— In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson disputed media reports that the thousands of dollars "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett paid two brothers was actually for personal training and nutrition, not for staging a phony racist and anti-gay attack. Johnson said there is more evidence against Smollett that hasn’t been disclosed yet.
— A Cook County grand jury indicts Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. Smollett’s attorney said the new charges, which came a little more than two weeks after Smollett was charged with a single felony count, are overkill.
— According to texts and emails provided to the Tribune, State’s Attorney Foxx asked Chicago police Superintendent Johnson to turn over the investigation of Smollett’s reported attack to the FBI at the urging of a politically connected lawyer. The exchanges began Feb. 1, three days after Smollett claimed he was attacked near his Streeterville apartment building. The released texts stopped on Feb. 13, the same day a memo was sent out by Foxx’s office saying that she “is recused” from the Smollett investigation.
— Smollett pleads not guilty to the 16 counts of disorderly conduct in front of Cook County Judge Steven Watkins, a Howard and DePaul University graduate with a background in criminal defense work. — One of the brothers in the case competes in and wins a semifinal bout in Chicago’s Golden Gloves tournament.
— One of the brothers in the case competes in the semifinals of the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament. He wins his bout.
— Cook County prosecutors drop all charges against Smollett, calling it an “appropriate resolution to this case.”
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the statement said.
Smollett’s attorneys issued a statement after the announcement, saying their client had been “vilified.”
“This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion,” the statement said.
Smollett, his hands shaking as he read from notes, told reporters in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building that he was thankful for the support from friends and family, and that he was glad the state was “attempting to do what’s right.”
“I have been truthful and consistent from day one,” said Smollett.— “Empire” co-star Taraji P. Henson tells USA Today is she is happy Smollett is vindicated, saying, "I'm happy that the truth has finally been set free, because I knew it all along.”"I'm not going to jump on clickbait just because someone says something derogatory about a person I know and love,” Henson said. “I'm not easily swayed like that. Those little clickbait (reports) weren't enough to deter me from his immaculate track record. I know the type of activism this young man does in his community, I know that he's a giver – he's not an attention-seeker.”
— In response to an open records request, Chicago police release a redacted file containing some of their investigative materials to the media. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office quickly informs them not to release any additional information.
— Cook County State’s Attorney Foxx tells a reporter, "There's some people who were never going to be satisfied unless Mr. Smollett spent many nights in prison. Right now there's a lot of emotion, and I wholeheartedly believe in our line of work we cannot be driven by emotion. We have to be driven by facts." Foxx later expresses regret over her handling of the investigation and her office clarifies her recusal was only informal.
— Trump sends an early morning tweet saying the FBI and Department of Justice would review the handling of the Jussie Smollett case in Chicago, calling it "outrageous" and "an embarrassment to our Nation!"
— Smollett’s attorney, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, suggests the African-American brothers in the case wore white make-up around their eyes, under ski masks, to disguise themselves while attacking her client, which would explain why Smollett identified his attackers as white or pale-skinned.
— Attorneys for the Chicago Tribune and other news organizations went to Cook County court to block records from being destroyed if Jussie Smollett’s legal team seeks to expunge his criminal case.
— In an op-ed for the Tribune, Foxx writes that she welcomes an outside investigation of her office’s handling of the Smollett matter, and says the evidence against the TV star turned out to be weaker than it was initially presented when the state sought charges.
— A group of suburban police chiefs joined with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police to give Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx a vote of no confidence over her office’s abrupt dismissal of charges against Jussie Smollett. FOP President Kevin Graham and some 30 suburban police leaders took it a step further at a news conference, calling on Foxx to resign from her elected office.
— A South Side attorney filed a petition asking for a special prosecutor to look into whether Smollett should be recharged with staging a hate crime as well as whether Foxx or her subordinates interfered with the investigation. The filing marked the first formal request that a special prosecutor be appointed since the decision to drop all charges against Smollett.
— Outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration said it plans to sue Smollett after the actor missed a deadline to repay the city of Chicago $130,106 — the cost of the police overtime hours expended in the investigation into his allegations.
— Attorneys for Smollett responded to the city of Chicago’s threat to file a lawsuit seeking repayment to the city for the cost of its investigation by warning they would depose Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and other key players in the case. In a letter obtained by the Tribune, attorney Mark Geragos wrote that Smollett “will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum.”
— Retired Illinois Appellate Court Judge Sheila O’Brien filed a petition requesting that a special prosecutor investigate Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the case, the second such petition in two days.
— Emanuel’s administration filed a lawsuit to try to force Smollett to repay the city $130,106 — the cost of the police overtime hours expended in the investigation into his allegations.
— Foxx requested that Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard investigate her office’s handling of the Smollett case. Blanchard said his office “will proceed with this review.”
— “Abel” Osundairo wins his division in the Chicago Golden Gloves, knocking out his opponent in the first round.
— Foxx releases hundreds of internal texts and emails on the Smollett case to the Chicago Tribune in response to public-records requests. In one exchange, Foxx suggested in a text message to her top deputy that the charges against Smollett, who she called a “washed up celeb who lied to cops,” were excessive.
“Sooo…...I’m recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases...16 counts on a class 4 (felony) becomes exhibit A,” she sent in a text message to Joseph Magats on March 8.
April 18 and April 19
Foxx’s chief spokeswoman and two top deputies leave their jobs with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. Director of External Affairs Kiera Ellis, who joined the office in October, is no longer with the office. A spokeswoman declined to say whether she had been fired or resigned.
Her departure came as two other top deputies submitted separate resignations. April Perry, Foxx’s chief ethics officer, is leaving for another job and Mark Rotert, who led the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, also stepped down. Both resignations are effective May 3.
Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, the brothers who said Smollett paid them to stage an attack, filed a federal lawsuit against the actor’s attorneys, saying they smeared them after Cook County prosecutors dropped charges against Smollett.
The Associated Press contributed.