CHICAGO — On the night Jussie Smollett reported being the victim of a vicious hate crime, he stepped forward to greet police officers wearing a powerful symbol of the attack he said he suffered: a thin white rope looped around his neck, braided into a tangled noose and reaching below his chest.
“The reason I’m calling (police) is because of this s---,” one of Smollett’s managers told the officers, reaching toward Smollett to grab the noose with disdain.
“Do you want to take it off or anything?” an officer asked Smollett, then an actor on the Fox show, “Empire.”
“Yeah, I do. I just wanted y’all to see it,” said Smollett, struggling for a moment to remove the loops of rope around his neck.
Chicago police released the curious exchange along with hundreds of other videos late Monday afternoon as well as hundreds of pages of texts, emails and internal documents in the latest document dump in a case that stoked an international media firestorm.
Smollett, who is African American and openly gay, reported that two men attacked him on a frigid January night in downtown Chicago, slipping a noose around his neck and shouting racist and homophobic slurs.
Following an intense investigation by Chicago police, Smollett eventually turned from victim to suspect.
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He ended up indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly paying $3,500 to two brothers he knew to stage the attack near his apartment building in the Streeterville neighborhood. But just a few weeks later, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped all charges with little explanation at an unannounced court hearing.
Monday’s massive release of materials — the second such document drop by Chicago police and third overall since mid-April — comes days after the latest twist in the case that has grown only more bizarre seemingly with each passing week.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin ordered Friday that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate the abrupt dismissal of charges against Smollett, a move that could see the actor hit with more charges and subject Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office to an investigation.
The videos from police Monday are likely the last in a slow drip of public-records releases since the charges were dropped.
According to the video taken by police in his apartment shortly after the purported attack, the actor didn’t realize that an officer was recording the scene with his body camera.
“There’s bleach on me,” Smollett can be heard telling officers. “They poured bleach on me.”
Smollett’s manager then let him know of the recording.
“I don’t want to be filmed,” Smollett said.
The officer turned off his camera.
The documents released Friday provide a more detailed look at the timeline of the police investigation.
Police first targeted brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, acquaintances of Smollett who eventually became star witnesses in the investigation after telling police that the actor paid them to stage the hate crime.
But in a memo on Feb. 1, three days after the alleged attack, an investigator gave no indication that police had drawn any solid conclusions. At this point, detectives had only vague descriptions of the suspects, one of them being an “unknown male” and the other who was “probably Caucasian” and wearing all black clothing and a mask.
Smollett was initially hesitant to cooperate, according to the documents. Robert Boik, chief of staff to police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, was negotiating with Smollett’s lawyer for the actor’s cooperation “but it is unlikely we will get it,” Boik wrote.
On the day after the attack, Smollett had declined to hand over his cellphone to detectives, saying he can’t be without it “even for a short time,” the memo said.
“Also, he is deciding whether he wants to give a (DNA saliva) swab and will get back to us with a decision,” the investigator wrote.
The brothers were arrested Feb. 13 on suspicion of attacking Smollett. The next day, the new documents show, police raided their North Side home and found a gun vault with several firearms, including a shotgun, a rifle with a scope, a 9mm handgun, a laser sight, ammunition and magazines.
Both brothers began cooperating with authorities and were released Feb. 15.
By Feb. 18, the records show, Chicago police were seeking Smollett’s criminal history.
Police also released hundreds of text messages that appear to be from Abimbola Osundairo’s phone. Multiple texts between him and Smollett appear to show he regularly provided Smollett with drugs.
At Smollett’s initial court appearance in February, prosecutors had highlighted one text in particular from Smollett to Abimbola on Jan. 25, four days before the alleged attack.
“Might need your help on the low,” Smollett wrote — evidence, prosecutors said, that he was about to ask the brothers for help orchestrating the phony attack.
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But on Jan. 29 — presumably after word of the attack spread — Abimbola texted Smollett with words of condolence.
“Bruh say it ain’t true,” he wrote. “I’m praying for speedy recovery. S--- is wild.”
The whole episode has been costly for Smollett, who won’t return to his role for the final season of “Empire.” He also faces a lawsuit from the city of Chicago seeking to recoup the cost of police overtime for investigating the incident, and his attorneys have been sued for defamation by two brothers who claim Smollett paid them to help stage an attack on him.
The importance of the case was clear to Chicago police brass almost immediately. An email from a top member of the command staff, penned just hours after the reported attack, turned out to be a gross understatement with the case’s many twists and turns.
“All — see below hate crime,” First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio wrote to other top department officials. “This will be a heater.”
(Chicago Tribune’s Annie Sweeney, Morgan Greene and Jessica Villagomez contributed.)
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