A Timeline Of Jussie Smollett’s Case: From Alleged Hate Crime To Grand Jury Charges

Photo: Dominik Bindl/Getty Images.
Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett is headed back to court after a grand jury charged him with six new counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police about an alleged hate crime that took place in January 2019. According to the new indictment, Smollett now faces jail time for criminal charges.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb, who was assigned to investigate the handling of the original case, made the announcement on Tuesday that Smollett would be indicted. Five charges are related to accounts Smollett gave police the morning following his alleged attack in January of last year, while one is reportedly related to a statement he made the following month when the police first looked into Smollett as a potential suspect. “The grand jury’s investigation revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred,” Webb said in a statement reported by CBS Chicago.
Smollett’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, released a statement reported by the New York Times saying, “The attempt to re-prosecute Mr. Smollett one year later on the eve of the Cook County State’s Attorney election is clearly all about politics not justice.” Smollett was not arrested; however, he is expected to appear in court on February 24. 
Ahead, we’ve detailed the timeline of the events of Smollett’s alleged attack, investigation, and ensuing legal battle with the city of Chicago.
January 22, 2019: Smollett receives a threatening letter
According to Smollett, he received a letter at the Chicago studios where Empire is filmed. Inside, there was a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree, a threatening note made out of cutout letters, and then-unknown powder which was later identified as crushed Asprin. “The return address said in big red, you know, like caps: MAGA,” Smollett told ABC News in an interview. The letter was reportedly handed over to the FBI.
January 29, 2019: The alleged attack
Smollett claims he was leaving a Chicago Subway restaurant around 2 a.m. when he was attacked by two white men wearing ski masks. In a statement from the Chicago police, the “unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him.” Police go on to say that Smollett claims he was battered by his assailants before they allegedly poured an unknown chemical substance on him and wrapped a rope around his neck before they fled the scene. The actor was examined by a doctor and police said he was good condition. Law enforcement announced that they were treating the incident as a possible hate crime, according to People.
January 30, 2019: Police announce they are looking for two suspects
In a tweet, Chicago police announce that they are looking for two persons of interest. Included in a follow up tweet are images captured on surveillance video near the scene around the time that the alleged attack took place. Around this time, fellow celebrities like Viola Davis, Ellen Degeneres, and Janelle Monae expressed their support for Smollett.
January 31, 2019: Police request to see Smollett’s phone and he refuses
In the original report to police, Smollett claims that he was on the phone with his manager at the time of the attack; however, when police asked for his phone to confirm details, Smollett refuses to hand it over, reports the BBC. Smollett’s family released a statement: “Jussie was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
February 1, 2019: Smollett speaks publicly for the first time since the alleged attack
In a statement provided exclusively to Essence, Smollett speaks publicly about the alleged attack for the first time. “Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
February 2, 2019: Smollett makes a public appearance and claims he is “the gay Tupac”
Smollett makes his first appearance on stage since the alleged attack. While performing at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, CA, he addresses the audience at the start of his set saying, “Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love. We hope that you all stand with us.”
Later on in his performance, he says, “Both my doctors in LA and Chicago cleared me to perform, but said to take care, obviously. And above all, I fought them back.” Then he paused and said, “I’m the gay Tupac.” At this point, police were still looking for surveillance video of the attack, though they had found footage of Smollett walking home with a rope around his neck.
February 11, 2019: Smollett’s phone records are submitted to Chicago police
After initially refusing to turn over his phone to the police to corroborate his claim that he was on the phone with his manager at the time of the attack, Smollett submits his phone records to Chicago police in the form of a PDF file; however, some section are redacted
February 13, 2019: Smollett speaks to ABC News and “persons of interest” are arrested
In his first televised interview since the alleged attack, Smollett speaks with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America expressing his frustration at his attackers but also over the people who have begun to doubt his story. “You know, at first it was a thing of, like, listen, if I tell the truth then that’s it, because it’s the truth,” Smollett told Roberts. “Then it became a thing of, like, oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you not believe that? It's the truth. And then it became a thing of, like, oh, it's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth. You don't even want to see the truth.”
The same day that the interview airs, Chicago police arrest two men at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Police say the two men, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, were previously linked with Empire.
February 15, 2019: The investigation takes a surprising turn
Both Abel and Ola Osundairo agree to cooperate with police and, in doing so, implicate Smollett claiming that the actor orchestrated a fake attack. Since neither of them were formally charged, Abel and Ola Osundairo are released from custody. A cryptic statement is issued on Twitter by police saying, “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.”
February 16, 2019: Police say they want to speak to Smollett again
Media outlets begin to report that the two men apprehended by police said they were paid to take part in a hoax. The Chicago police department’s chief communications officer, Anthony Guglielmi releases a statement saying, “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.”
On the same day, Smollett’s lawyers also release a statement: “As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with.”
February 20, 2019: Smollett is charged by police
Chicago police charge Smollett with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, a felony charge that could mean up to three years in prison.
February 21, 2019: Smollett turns himself over to the police
After being charged, Smollett turns himself in to the police who arrest him. A press conference is held by the police superintendent, Eddie Johnson who says that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.” Johnson adds that the actor did so because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” Police also claim that Smollett not only paid Abel and Ola Osundairo $3,500 to stage the attack, but that he also sent the threatening letter to himself. In a court hearing later that day, Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke says that the “most vile” part was the use of the noose. Following the hearing, Smollett’s lawyers release a statement calling it an “organized law enforcement spectacle.”
February 22, 2019: Smollett is suspended from Empire
Empire producers announce that Smollett’s character will be removed from the show’s final episodes of the season. They do not address whether the actor will be allowed to return to the show in future seasons. 
March 7, 2019: A grand jury issues a 16-count indictment
A grand jury in Chicago’s Cook County charges Smollett with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report and making false statements to Chicago police. Each charge carries a prison sentence of up to three years. Smollett maintains that he is innocent on all charges.
March 26, 2019: Prosecutors drop all charges against Smollett
In a surprise turn of events, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office drops all charges against Smollett releasing a statement saying it was motivated by “Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago.” Following a court hearing in Chicago, Smollett told reporters, “I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I was being accused of.”
March 28, 2019: The City of Chicago demands payment
Chicago authorities demand payment from Smollett to cover the money spent on investigating his report. In a letter from the city’s legal counsel to Smollett’s lawyers, authorities ask for $130,000. Though the charges were dropped, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel claims in a news conference that he still believes Smollett is guilty. “When he does pay the city back for just purely what the taxpayers have fronted, in that memo section [of the check], he can write, ‘I’m sorry, and I’m accountable for what I’ve done,’” Emanuel said at the conference, reports CNN.
April 11, 2019: The City of Chicago sues Smollett
In a complaint filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the City of Chicago’s legal counsel requests that Smollett pay a civil penalty of $1,000 for each of his “numerous false statements of material fact.” "This follows his refusal to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019," Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city's Department of Law, tells NPR in a statement.
June 5, 2019: Empire co-creator Lee Daniels says Smollett will no return to the show
In a response correcting a story published by Variety, Daniels tweets that Smollett will not be returning to Empire.
June 24, 2019: New footage is released of Smollett on the night of the alleged attack
Chicago police release footage of Smollett the night of the alleged attack. From the point of view of a police officer’s bodycam, it shows Smollett at his apartment about seven hours after the incident with the rope still around his neck. An officer can be heard saying, “Do you want to take it off or anything?” Smollett replies, “Yeah I do, I just wanted you to see it.” Chicago police release hundreds of files in addition to the video including footage of Abel and Ola Osundairo in a cab the night police were called.
November 19, 2019: Smollett countersues the City of Chicago
In response to the City of Chicago seeking repayment for taxpayer money spent on the investigation into his alleged attack, Smollett filed a counterclaim saying the city is not entitled to the payment they are asking for, reports the Washington Post. “Having agreed to accept $10,000 from Mr. Smollett as payment in full connection with the dismissal of the charges against him,” the counterclaim reads, “the City cannot seek additional recovery from Mr. Smollett under the doctrine of accord and satisfaction.” Further the claim argued that police disseminated “false and misleading information” that led to media reports claiming Smollett faked the attack on himself.
February 12, 2020: New charges are filed against Smollett
Special prosecutor Dan Webb, who was assigned to investigate how the case was handled, announced that a grand jury has charged Smollett with six counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police. A court date is set for February 24. 

More from US News

R29 Original Series