Jussie Smollett went from assault victim to suspect within weeks. Here are the events that led up to the “Empire” actor turning himself in.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says “Empire” star Jussie Smollett “still has the presumption of innocence and he still has his opportunity in court if he chooses to go that route.”
But, as he told “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts on Monday, “there’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet that doesn’t support the version that he gave us. There’s still a lot of video evidence, physical evidence and testimony that doesn’t support what he said happened.”
Meanwhile, a Chicago judge said Smollett can travel out-of-state to meet his lawyers while he’s free on bond.
Johnson told Roberts detectives still considered Smollett a victim rather and not a suspect right up until the final hour before they had to release the two brothers who were arrested in connection with the case unless they charged them.
“I refused to characterize Jussie Smollett as a suspect unless we had concrete evidence,” Johnson said. “The 47th hour that we had those two individuals in custody is when it changed.”
That’s when Abel and Ola Osundairo, two American-born brothers of Nigerian descent who reside in Chicago and have worked on “Empire,” became cooperating witnesses, he said.
“We worked very closely with their lawyer, and (she) went in there to talk to them, and whatever she said to them apparently got through to them – to just tell the truth about what happened,” Johnson said. “And that’s what they decided to do.”
That’s not to say he and the detectives working the case didn’t have their doubts about Smollett’s story, he said.
“There were some questions (about Smollett’s account of what happened),” said Johnson, though he noted that’s not unusual: “There’s always questions when people are describing incidents to us.”
Investigation timeline: How Jussie Smollett went from victim to suspect
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He added, “What’s important for people to realize is it’s not that the Chicago Police saying he did something. It’s the evidence, the facts, the witnesses that are saying this.”
The key piece of evidence? A canceled check signed by Smollett, who the brothers say “paid them $3,500 with a check … to carry out this incident.”
Smollett’s attorneys have said the check, made out to Abel Ola Osundairo, was for personal training sessions and nutrition plans.
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career” because he was dissatisfied with his salary. (Feb. 21)
Johnson, who says he grew up at the end of the civil rights era in one of “the most notorious housing projects in the country,” described the decision to use a noose in the incident as particularly offensive. Smollett had claimed two men threw a rope around his neck when he was attacked.
“The Chicago Police Department has its issues with racism and excessive force and all of that. And I’m acutely aware of that,” he said. “But we didn’t earn this particular incident, and I just refuse to let us take that shot if we have evidence of the contrary.
“I want people to understand that (filing a false police report) is a damaging thing to a city and to a police department. It’s my responsibility to make sure the record gets set straight.”
Contributing: Associated Press
‘Empire’ star Terrence Howard stands behind Smollett: ‘We love the hell outta you’
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