“Empire” actor and R&B singer Jussie Smollett told Chicago police in January 2019 that two men physically attacked him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs. Some key moments in the story:
Jan. 22, 2019
— Smollett receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the studio in Chicago where “Empire” is filmed. Police later say that they believe Smollett sent the letter himself.
Jan. 29, 2019
— Jussie Smollett tells police he was physically attacked by two men in downtown Chicago while out getting food from a Subway restaurant at 2 a.m. The actor says the men used racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an “unknown substance” on him. Police say Smollett, who is black and gay, told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan that some Trump critics have decried as racist and discriminatory.
Jan. 30, 2019
— Chicago police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack. Police obtain and release images of two people they would like to question, calling them “persons of interest.”
— Reports of an assault on Smollett draw outrage and support for him on social media from some politicians and celebrities.
Jan. 31, 2019
— Trump tells reporters at the White House that he saw a story the night before about Smollett, saying, “It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.”
— Smollett’s family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime. Smollett’s family says he “has told the police everything” and “his story has never changed,” disputing assertions leveled on social media that he had been less than cooperative and changed his story.
Feb. 1, 2019
— Smollett i ssues a statement telling people he’s OK and thanking them for their support. He says he’s working with authorities and has been “100 percent factual and consistent on every level.”
Feb. 2, 2019
— Smollett gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
Feb. 12, 2019
— Chicago police say Smollett turned over some, but not all, of the phone records detectives requested as part of their investigation. Police say the heavily redacted files aren’t sufficient. Smollett says he redacted information to protect the privacy of contacts and people not relevant to the attack.
Feb. 13, 2019
— Chicago police pick up two men they identify as Nigerian brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on their return from Nigeria after police learn at least one worked on “Empire.” Police question the brothers and search the apartment where the men live.
Feb. 14, 2019
— Chicago police say local media reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed.
— Producers of “Empire” dispute media reports that Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show.
Feb. 15, 2019
— Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielimi says the two “persons of interest” are now considered suspects. He says the men — identified previously by police as two brothers from Nigeria — are in custody but have not been charged with a crime.
— Chicago police release the two men without charges after arresting them on suspicion of assaulting Smollett and holding them for nearly 48 hours. A police spokesman says the two are no longer considered suspects and that investigators have new evidence to consider as a result of questioning them.
Feb. 16, 2019
— Police say the investigation has “shifted” after detectives question the two brothers about the attack and release them without charges. Police say they’ve requested a follow-up interview with Smollett. Smollett’s lawyers say the actor feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.
— Smollett’s account of what happened is met with some skepticism on social media in the wake of the new developments.
Feb. 17, 2019
— Chicago police say they’re still seeking a follow-up interview with Smollett after receiving new information that “shifted” their investigation of a reported attack on the “Empire” actor. Guglielimi says police reached out to Smollett’s attorney, but says an interview has not been conducted.
— Guglielimi declines to address reports that a grand jury may hear evidence in the case, saying: “We’re not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we’ve gotten.”
Feb. 19, 2019
— Chicago police investigate tip that on the night Smollett reported being attacked, he was in an elevator of his apartment building with the two Nigerian brothers. Police later dismiss the tip, saying it’s not credible based on video evidence.
— Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recuses herself from the investigation. Her office says the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution … to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.” No details were provided. Foxx later says the reason for the recusal is that she had conversations with a Smollett family member after the incident was reported in late January.
Feb. 20, 2019
— Chicago police say Smollett is officially suspected of filing a false police report when he said he was a victim of a racist, homophobic attack in downtown Chicago in January. Police also say that two brothers who were questioned about the attack were testifying before a grand jury and detectives were presenting evidence to the grand jury.
— Chicago police say the Cook County State’s Attorney has charged Smollett with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report that he was attacked by two masked men. Police detectives were contacting Smollett’s attorneys to arrange his surrender for arrest.
Feb. 21, 2019
— Chicago police say Smollett turned himself in to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, which could bring up to three years in prison.
— Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the two brothers to help him.
Feb. 22, 2019
— Producers say Smollett’s character will be removed from the final two episodes of this season.
March 7, 2019
—A Cook County grand jury returns a 16-count indictment charging Smollett with falsely reporting an offense.
March 26, 2019
—Attorneys for Smollett say charges alleging he lied to police about attack have been dropped.
March 28, 2019
—A city official says Chicago is seeking $130,000 from Smollett to cover the costs of the investigation into his reported beating, which police say was staged. A letter sent to Smollett says over two dozen detectives and officers investigated the entertainer’s report that he was attacked, racking up a “substantial number of overtime hours.”
April 11, 2019
—City of Chicago files a lawsuit in Cook County court seeking to recoup the costs of investigating the reported attack.
April 12, 2019
— Foxx asks the county’s inspector general to review how her office handled the criminal case against Smollett.
April 15, 2019
— Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office releases thousands of documents in the Smollett case in response to open records requests, including a text from Foxx calling Smollett a “washed up celeb” who had been overcharged.
April 23, 2019
—- The two Nigerian brothers who said they helped Smollett stage the attack on himself file a defamation lawsuit against the actor’s attorneys.
May 31, 2019
— Foxx shifts explanation for why she recused herself from Smollett case, saying she stepped aside due to false rumors she was related to the “Empire” actor.
Aug. 23, 2019
— Judge names former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor to look into why charges against Smollett were dropped.
Oct. 4, 2019
— Judge decides to retain Webb as special prosecutor, despite his acknowledgement that he donated to Foxx’s campaign and his law firm co-hosted a fundraiser for her.
Jan. 8, 2020
— Judge orders Google to give special prosecutor year’s worth of Smollett’s emails, private messages, photographs and location details.
Feb. 11, 2020
— Webb says grand jury returns six-count indictment against Smollett, accusing him of lying to police regarding his assertion that he was the target of a racist and homophobic attack.