On the 26th of March 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was cleared of all charges following about a month of twists and turns, but how did this story unfold in the first place?
The openly gay Empire actor who was much loved by his fans and colleagues, claimed he was attacked by two men and taunted by homophobic slurs, he also stated that one of the attackers wore a MAGA hat (Make America Great Again). This of course led to what turned out to be one of America’s most gripping sagas.
Let’s get this down to a timeline shall we?
29th January 2019
The actor said he was out rather late (2am) when he got jumped by two men who punched him in the face and assaulted him. One of the attackers was said to be wearing a MAGA hat which immediately put Trump supporters in the limelight as possible suspects in this case. Following the incident, the actor was inundated with a large amount of messages and so on in his support. Actors and fans alike condemned the attack and wished Jussie a speedy recovery.
31st January 2019
The first red flag. Jussie Smollett refused to hand over his phone when police asked to look through it to determine the report and also for possible investigation. The Chicago Police in this case said that they would rather not treat him as a suspect at this time as he was seen as a victim.
The actor released a statement:”The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.
“I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level.”
Also, Police released pictorial information regarding two ‘persons of interest’ in the assault on Jussie Smollett.
Jussie’s phone records were submitted but chunks of information were redacted, however, police still stated that they viewed the actor as a victim rather than a suspect.
The persons of interest had a valentine’s day to forget when they were arrested by the police in connection to the crime. Obabinjo (Ola) and Abimbola (Abel) Osundairo, brothers originally from Nigeria (Naija we hail) were the men brought in in connection with the crime.
Along with the men were a black face mask, an Empire script, phone, receipts, a red hat and bleach which had been seized after a search of the men’s homes.
Jussie Smollett also appeared on Good Morning America and there he exclaimed why he refused to give up his phone as it contained private materials such as videos, messages and so on. He also added that if he had been another skin colour, he wouldn’t be under any scrutiny.
Police reported that there had been ‘some developments’ in the case which made it a whole lot more muddled than was planned.
The police also announced that they would like to speak to the actor. In response, Jussie’s team released a statement: “Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with.” he said.
The Nigerian brothers were at this point released.
Suddenly the tables turned and this time it was the Empire star that was facing prosecution by the police after he was charged with “disorderly conduct/filing a false police report”.
Jussie’s lawyers claimed that they would fight the case with all they’ve got
Spoiler alert: They did
Jussie Smollett was arrested by police with Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson saying that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”
At this time reports emerged that Smollett had been angling for a raise in Empire and it was posited that the assault claims was being used as a bargaining chip.
Police also claimed that the actor paid the Nigerian brothers $3,500 (£2,600) to stage the attack and also sent himself a threatening message on the set of Empire to further enhance the ruse.
Showrunners for Empire, Fox, released a statement saying: “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
Smollett was suspended from the show, Empire.
Another twist. The cheque that Jussie Smollett allegedly cut for the Nigerian brothers was obtained by reporters who saw that it read “5 week Nutrition/Workout program (Don’t Go).” As it turned out, Don’t Go was the name of a music video that Jussie appeared in and it seemed the cheque was to get him in shape for it.
Jussie was in court where he pleaded not guilty to the charges of disorderly conduct and false report.
The charges are dropped after an emergency court appearance. Smollett’s legal team released a statement saying: “He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator.”
The mayor and Police Superintendent were clearly miffed by this maintaining that the actor was guilty, saying at a press conference:”At the end of the day, it is Mr Smollett who committed this hoax, period.
“If he wanted to clear his name, the way to do that is in a court of law so that everyone can see the evidence… I stand by the facts of what we produced.”
This was of course followed by a wild division on social media with many suspecting foul play in the corridors of power while others still maintained that the singer and actor was innocent all along.
Jussie Smollett’s lawyer Patricia Brown Holmes released a statement declaring the case closed and stating “We respectfully request all government agencies involved live up to the ethical tenets of their office.
“The case was dismissed. We should all allow Mr Smollett to move on with his life as a free citizen.”
And that’s more or less where we are, what do you think? Was he innocent all along?