Jussie Smollett's Hate Crime Allegation
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Jussie Smollett's Hate Crime Allegation, also known as Justice For Jussie, refers to allegations made by actor Jussie Smollett of the television series Empire, who claimed he was attacked by two people who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and threw a chemical substance on his face while yelling "MAGA Country." In February 2019, Smollett was accused by the Chicago Police Department of orchestrating the attack to "promote his career."
On the morning of January 29th, 2019, Jussie Smollett was hospitalized following an alleged hate crime in Chicago. The two assailants, according to police, tied a rope around his neck, "[yelled] out racial and homophobic slurs" and "poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim." As of January 30th, Smollett was in good condition.
That morning, HuffPost editor Philip Lewis tweeted  a statement from the Chicago Police Department on the attack. The post received more than 8,100 retweets and 11,000 likes in 24 hours (shown below).
TMZ elaborated on the reports, stating that the assailants yelled "This is MAGA country" at Smollett. They wrote:
Sources directly connected to Jussie tell TMZ, the actor arrived in Chicago from New York late Monday, and at around 2 AM he was hungry and went to a Subway. We're told when shortly after he walked out on his way home, someone yelled, "Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?"
The 2 men -- both white and wearing ski masks -- viciously attacked Jussie as he fought back, but they beat him badly and fractured a rib. They put a rope around his neck, poured bleach on him and as they left they yelled, "This is MAGA country."
While the initial statement from Chicago Police refuted TMZ's report, stating that there was "no record of The MAGA Country comment," a follow-up description of the events clarified that the comment was part of their report. They amended: "when detectives follow[ed] up with him later in the day, he recalled the offender[s] making those comments and detectives completed a supplemental report."
That day, people online began posting messages of support for Smollett. On Instagram,  the official Empire account posted a statement from 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment. They wrote, "The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate." The post received more than 168,000 likes in 24 hours (shown below).
Throughout the day, celebrities, fans and other social media users expressed their support for Jussie using the phrase Justice For Jussie and the hashtag #JusticeForJussie. For example, Scandal-star Kerry Washington tweeted, "DEAR GOD! Prayers and justice for Jussie Smollett." The tweet received more than 7,700 retweets and 36,000 likes in 24 hours (shown below, left).
Cultural critics Ira Madison III referred to the Kevin Hart Homophobic Tweet controversy by tweeting, "This is why someone’s jokes about beating their gay son were never funny." The tweet received more than 28,000 retweets and 122,000 likes in 24 hours (shown below).
Virtually every major news outlet reported on the attack and the response, including TMZ, USA Today, ABC, The Root, New York Times and more.
On January 29th, director and Empire co-creator Lee Daniels posted a video on Instagram about the attack and his support for Smollett. He said, "You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are, because it shows that we are united." The post received more than 180,000 likes in 24 hours.
ABC News Interview
On February 14th, 2019, ABC News broadcast an interview with Smollett, in which he recounted the alleged assault and expressed frustration with those skeptical of his story (shown below).
"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now."
Additionally, Smollett explained why he refused to allow police to view his phone records to corroborate his claims, saying he had "private pictures and videos" along with sensitive contact information he did not feel comfortable with handing over.
Persons of Interest
On January 30th, 2019, the Chicago Police Department officer Anthony Guglielmi released surveillance camera stills of "people of interest" that may have been related to the attack (shown below).
On February 14th, TMZ reported that police were questioning and raided the homes of two men in connection with the assault, who were allegedly extra on the show Empire. The following day, TMZ published an article titled "Jussie Smollett Story Has Race Discrepancy," noting that sources "reaffirmed he had said that day the men were white." That day, Twitter user Robby Starbuck tweeted photographs of two men, claiming they were the two brothers who had been questioned by the police (shown below). Also on February 15th, The Daily Mail identified the men as brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, along with additional photographs of the men. According to the article, the men flew to Nigeria hours after the alleged attack but were detained at the Chicago O'Hare airport customs during their return to the United States on February 14th.
That day, TMZ reported that the two men had been arrested for battery.
On February 14th, 2019, the local Chicago news station ABC 7 reported that "multiple sources" claimed police were "investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack allegedly because Smollett was being written off of Empire."
That day, Guglielmi tweeted that news reports that the incident had been deemed a hoax were "unconfirmed by case detectives" (shown below, left). Meanwhile, The Advocate editor-in-chief Zach Stafford tweeted a statement from Fox, saying rumors that Smollett was being written off the show were "patently ridiculous" (shown below, right).
On February 16th, 2019, CBS Chicago reported that the two brothers had been released by police and that sources revealed that "at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett's request." Additionally, the article reported that "the brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return." Following the news, the keyword "Jussie" began trending on Twitter, with many speculating that the actor orchestrated the attack as a hoax. Meanwhile, Deadline reported that a "law enforcement source" revealed that the case had taken a new course "based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident."
On February 20th, 2019, Guglielmi tweeted that Smollett had been "officially classified as a suspect" in the case and that he would face felony criminal charges for "disorderly conduct / filing a false police report" (shown below).
Felony criminal charges have been approved by
CookCountySAO</a> against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest. <a href="https://t.co/LvBSYE2kVj">pic.twitter.com/LvBSYE2kVj</a></p>— Anthony Guglielmi (AJGuglielmi) February 21, 2019
That evening, NY Times reporter Sopan Deb tweeted that Smollett had been "officially indicted" (shown below).
On February 21st, 2019, Smollet was taken into custody by the Chicago Police Department on charges for filing a false police report and disorderly conduct.
That day, a press conference was held by the Chicago Police Department, during which Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson accused Smollett of orchestrating the attack on himself to "promote his career" because he was "unsatisfied with his salary" on Empire (shown below). Additionally, police revealed Smollett paid the brothers with a check and that they believed the damage to Smollett's face was "likely self-inflicted." The same day, Huffpost reported that Smollett was paid $65,000 per episode on Empire.
Meanwhile, many on Twitter expressed outrage over the alleged hoax and the term "Jussie" became a trending topic on the platform. Meanwhile, Twitter user Tess Owen started a thread, arguing that "Hate crime hoaxes are incredibly rare" (shown below).
Hate crime hoaxes are incredibly rare.
Of the 7,175 reported hate crimes in 2017, 23 – or 0.3 percent – were determined to be fake, according to police & FBI data collected and analyzed by
proflevin</a> <a href="https://t.co/1b7VtOewlf">https://t.co/1b7VtOewlf</a></p>— Tess Owen (misstessowen) February 21, 2019
That day, journalists Preston Mitchum, Ava Vidal and George M Johnson posted tweets in support of Smollett (shown below).
Also on February 21st, Donald Trump posted a tweet directed to Smollett asking "what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA" (shown below).
Grand Jury Indictment
On March 8th, 2019, a Chicago grand jury returned 16 felony counts against Smollett for filing a false report. That day ABC 7 Chicago reported that "experts believe it is likely he will strike a plea deal and potentially not spend time in prison." Meanwhile, an "Event" page about the grand jury indictment was published on Twitter. Also on March 8th, posts about the news reached the front page of the /r/HateCrimeHoaxes, /r/TheDonald and /r/news subreddits.
On March 13th, 2019, the Chicago Tribune published Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's texts and emails regarding Jussie Smollett. On March 19th, the Chicago news station WGN 9 reported that the Chicago police union was "calling for a federal investigation" into the actions of Foxx's actions in the Smollett case.
On March 26th, 2019, prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett and a judge ruled the case would be sealed. That day, Smollett's spokeswoman Anne Kavanaugh released a statement about Smollett, claiming "he was a victim who was vilified" (shown below).
"Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment."
That day, the criminal justice publication The Appeal tweeted a statement by the Cook County State Attorney, saying that Smollett's bond forfeiture and community service was "a just disposition & appropriate resolution" (shown below).
Meanwhile, Smollett delivered a statement to the press professing his innocence (shown below).
"I am a man of faith, and I am a man that has knowledge of my history, and I would not bring my family, our lives, or the movement through a fire like this."— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 26, 2019
WATCH: Jussie Smollett speaks after charges against him are dropped. https://t.co/Id9kl0AfIa pic.twitter.com/lh8V8J7AHY
That day, Fox News reported that Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson was "furious" that the charges had been dropped. Also on March 26th, New York Times reporter Julie Bosman tweeted a thread about the dropped charges, noting that the Chicago first assistant state's attorney who dropped the charges stated "we didn't exonerate him," that he "saw no problems with the police investigation" and that the charges had been dropped for his "agreement to do community service" and "forfeiting his bond to the city of Chicago" (shown below).
That day, Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel held a press conference with Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson, where they condemned the decision by prosecutors to drop the charges (shown below).
On March 30th, 2019, comedian Chris Rock told several jokes about Smollett at the 50th Annual NAACP Awards, claiming that he was "told not to" (shown below, left). On April 2nd, 2019, comedian Tracy Morgan discussed Smollett as a guest on The Tonight Show (shown below, right).
On April 2nd, 2019, USA Today reported that Cook County Judge Steven Watkins announced it would be "several weeks" before he delivered a decision to release the Smollett case file to the public.
Chicago Police Union's Vote of "No Confidence"
On April 4th, 2019, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police held a press conference to announce a vote of "no confidence" in Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, listing the charges dropped against Smollett as one of her office's actions leading to the decision (shown below).
In response to the press conference, Foxx's office released a statement disputing the criticisms:
"I was elected by the people of Cook County to pursue community safety, prevent harm, and uphold the values of fairness and equal justice. I’m proud of my record in doing that, and I plan to do so through the end of my term and, if the people so will it, into the future."
Osundairo Brothers' Lawsuit
On April 23rd, 2019, a lawsuit was filed by the Osundairo brothers against Smollett's attorneys Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian for defamation, claiming the attorneys made false statements alleging they had actually attacked Smollett and were not hired by the actor to stage the hate crime. That day, their attorney Gloria Schmidt held a press conference, during which she read a statement from the brothers about the lawsuit (shown below).
Case File Unsealed
On May 23rd, 2019, CBS Chicago reported that a Cook County Judge Steven Watkins had unsealed the Smollett case, stating that Smollett speaking on national television had waived his argument for privacy. That day, retired Justice Sheila M. O'Brien held a press conference to address the ruling toward opening the court file and referred to the handling of the case as a "disaster" (shown below).
On February 12th, 2020, Jussie Smollett was officially charged with six counts of lying to the police during the investigation into the alleged hate crime. The trial, having been delayed due to COVID-19, did not start until November 29th, 2021. After over a week and a half, jury deliberation started, but lasted only a day. On December 9th, 2021, Jussie Smollett was given a guilty verdict for five of the six counts. Sentencing is still to be determined, but people already began to react on Twitter to the verdict. On December 9th, 2021, the Twitter accounts @crotchner and @JakeBequetta91 summed up the majority of the opinion on Jussie's case (shown below).
On December 10th, 2021, the Twitter account @EJinAction posted an agreed upon take equating Jussie's charges of lying to the police with Karens who often employ similar tactics and do not get charged the same way (shown below).
 CNN – 'Empire' star Jussie Smollett attacked in possible hate crime
 Instagram – @empirefox's Post
 Twitter – @Phil_Lewis_'s Tweet
 Twitter – @kerrywashington's Tweet
 Twitter – @ira's Tweet
 TMZ – JUSSIE SMOLLETT
TELLS COPS ATTACKERS SHOUTED 'MAGA COUNTRY'
 USA Today – Attack on 'Empire' star Jussie Smollett: The latest on the investigation
 ABC – Celebrities, lawmakers rally behind Jussie Smollett in wake of brutal attack
 The Root – Jussie Smollett Reportedly Hospitalized in Chicago Following Racist, Homophobic Attack [Updated]
 The New York Times – Jussie Smollett, Star of ‘Empire,’ Attacked in What Police Call a Possible Hate Crime
 Reason – Chicago Police Deny Claim That Jussie Smollett Identified Attackers as White, Can't Get Their Story Straight About Whether He Heard Them Say 'MAGA'
 Twitter – ajguglielmi
 ABC7 – Police investigating whether Jussie Smollett staged attack with help of others
 Twitter – @ZachStafford
 TMZ – Persons of interest had home raided
 TMZ – Jussie Smollett Story Has Race Discrepancy
 Twitter – @robbystarbuck
 The Daily Mail – Two Nigerian actor brothers detained over Jussie Smollett attack
 TMZ – Jussie Smollett Cops Arrest Potential Suspects for Battery
 Deadline – Jussie Smollett Viewed As Active Participant By Cops In Alleged Assault
 CBS Chicago – Jussie Smollett Case
 Twitter – @realDonaldTrump
 Huffpost – Jussie Smollett Accused Of Staging Attack Due To Salary Woes
 ABC 7 – Empire actor indicted on 16 felony counts by grand jury
 Twitter – Empire star Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts
 Reddit – /r/HateCrimeHoaxes
 Reddit – /r/The_Donald
 Fox News – Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson furious at Jussie Smollett charges being dropped
 Chicago Tribune – State Attorney Kim Foxx's texts and emails regarding the Jussie Smollett case
 WGN 9 – Chicago police union wants federal investigation into Kim Foxx’s handling of Jussie Smollett case
 Twitter – @juliebosman
 USA Today – Judge considers media request to unseal file says decision will be weeks
 CBS Chicago – Cook County Judge Unseals Jussie Smollett Case File
 Twitter – JakeBequette91
 Twitter – EJinAction
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