On Thursday (February 21st) morning Jussie Smollett turned himself in after being charged with filing a false police report. The arrest comes almost a month after the actor and singer claimed that he was the target of a hate crime in Chicago. Since then, the reports surrounding the incident have become more and more conflicting; the Chicago Police Department initially disputed claims that Smollett staged his own attack. Now, they believe that he did.
But how did it get to this point? So much occurred with this incident — from celebrities reacting strongly to the initial case to constant updates about it — that at times it was difficult to keep up. From the alleged attack to the arrest, this is a timeline of Smollett’s scandal.
January 22: Racist, homophobic letter arrives at Empire set.
Less than a week before the attack, Smollett receives a racist and homophobic letter containing white powder at the Fox studio where Empire is filmed.
January 28: Smollett is attacked in Chicago.
According to initial reports, Smollett is approached by two white men wearing ski masks outside of a Subway in Chicago on Monday evening. The men proceed to beat him up, pour “an unknown chemical substance” on him, and put a noose around his neck. The attackers also reportedly call the actor “that fa**ot Empire ni**er” and yelled “This is MAGA country.”
Following the attack, Smollett is hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial where he is reported to be in “good condition.”
January 30: Police look into “persons of interest.”
The Chicago Police Department releases an image of the two “potential persons of interest,” as captured by a nearby security camera. The CPD also confirm that the FBI is assisting in the investigation.
January 31: Smollett’s family issues a statement.
“To be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime,” the entertainer’s family says in a response condemning the attack.
Donald Trump also speaks on the attack against the actor, calling it “horrible.”
February 1: Smollett breaks his silence on the attack.
“Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know,” the statement continues. “And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
February 2: Smollett makes his first public appearance since the attack.
Smollett makes his first public appearance during a sold-out concert at the Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood. During his performance he opens up about the attack, saying, “I fought the fuck back.”
“The hateful rhetoric that gets thrown around — I’m not gonna name names — it has to stop!” he says at one point. “But it stops with people who believe in love.”
During the performance Smollett also jokingly refers to himself as the “gay Tupac,” which makes headlines.
February 13: Two men are arrested.
CPD arrest two men believed to have carried out the attack against Smollett. The men are revealed to be Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, the former of which appeared as an extra on Empire in 2015.
February 14: Smollett appears on Good Morning America and more information is released on the “potential persons of interest.”
Smollett speaks with Robin Roberts for his first in-depth interview about the attack, addressing people’s skepticism and validity of the incident and why he was apprehensive about giving his phone to the police.
"It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth, you don't even want to see the truth." @JussieSmollett tells @RobinRoberts he's "pissed off" about the attacks on him after details came out after his attack. https://t.co/3HbyU2SFxe pic.twitter.com/a2o949itIJ
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 14, 2019
“It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth,” Smollett says.
The same day, ABC7 Chicago reported that police were investigating if the actor staged the attack because he was allegedly being written off of Empire. However, police released a statement disputing the attack as a hoax.
“While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax,” the statement reads. “The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as the victim, not a suspect. The investigation continues.”
Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer for the CPD, also releases new information on the two persons of interest.
“Police have identified the men only as two Nigerian brothers,” Guglielmi says. “Police have been questioning them since they were picked up by officers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday after returning to the city from Nigeria. On Thursday, police served a search warrant at their home.”
February 15: The two suspects are released.
Guglielmi tweets that the CPD has released the suspects and dropped the charges against them “Due to new evidence.”
Case Update: 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. pic.twitter.com/Hswn1Qjgcy
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 16, 2019
February 16: CPD sources suggest that Smollett may have orchestrated the attack.
After disputing Smollett staged the attack, two law enforcement sources tell CNN that the CPD now believes the actor might have paid the Osundairo brothers to carry out the attack against him. The brothers are now cooperating with police.
“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,” CPD says in a statement. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
February 19: Smollett is reportedly cut from Empire episodes.
Amid conflicting reports on the case, TMZ reports that Empire has reduced Smollett’s role in the second to last episode of the season. He was supposed to have nine scenes and a big musical number in the episode but five of those scenes, as well as the musical number, were cut.
Sources close to the investigation also tell CBS Chicago that the Osundairo brothers claim that Smollett sent himself the racist letter that arrived at the Empire set and that he staged the attack after the letter didn’t get the outcry he wanted.
February 20: Smollett is classified as a suspect in his alleged assault.
Smollett is now officially classified a suspect “for filing a false police report.” A Cook County judge proceeds to approve felony criminal charges against the actor while detectives present evidence before a grand jury. But minutes before the Osundairo brothers are scheduled to testify in front of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse grand jury, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office receives a call from Smollett’s attorneys. The call results in leading prosecutors postponing the hearing according to CBS Chicago.
Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury. pic.twitter.com/FhDcbBKsuU
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 20, 2019
February 21: Smollett turns himself in to police custody.
The singer is arrested and taken into custody on Thursday morning after being charged with filing a false police report.
During a press conference following the arrest, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Smollett “paid $3,500 to stage this attack” and that “The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also addresses Smollett’s arrest, saying, “A single individual who put their perceived self-interest ahead of these shared principles will never trump Chicago’s collective spirit.”
Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer his thoughts on Smollett too, tweeting: “Jussie Smollett, what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019
Smollett has since been released on bond for $100,000 and is due back in court March 14, when he is expected to enter his plea. If the entertainer is convicted of the charge he could face up to three years in prison.