BY EBENEZER NKUNDA
On January 22, 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett reported receiving a threatening envelope with “MAGA” written in red ink as the return address. Inside this envelope, which was sent to his workplace at Fox production studios on Chicago’s West Side, were cut-out letters spelling “You will die black” and crushed pain reliever. A week later, the actor reported that he was attacked by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs, declared “This is MAGA country,” and hit him before wrapping a noose wet with acid around his neck. Following his report, police searched for hours going through footage but couldn’t find direct evidence of the alleged attacks. However, police did find an image of two men during the time leading up to the attack.
On February 1, Smollett released his first statement since the alleged attack, insisting that he was “100 percent factual and consistent on every level” in his talks with authorities. The next day, Smollett thanked his supporters at his first performance since the incident.
About two weeks after the alleged attack, Smollett appeared on Good Morning America to quell any doubts of the attack’s validity. Later that day, the Chicago Police informed the media that two Nigerian-American brothers captured on video around the time and location of the supposed attack were seen as potential suspects and would be interviewed. However, the next afternoon, the Chicago PD confirmed the innocence of the two brothers, and they were released, leading many to question Smollett’s testimony.
While in custody, the two Nigerian-American brothers gave valuable information that led the Chicago PD to investigate whether Smollett paid the two brothers and orchestrated the whole attack. Smollett responded to these accusations in a strongly worded statement claiming he was victimized.
Two days later, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. The day after he was charged, Smollett turned himself in to Chicago PD, who set his bond at $100,000. Smollett continues to maintain his innocence.
The day after Smollett made bail, Fox Television released a statement that his character would be removed from the last two episodes of Empire’s current season.
After continued investigation, a Cooke County grand jury indicted Jussie Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct, and on March 14th Smollett pleaded not guilty to all counts. In recent news, prosecutors dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel blasted the decision as a “whitewash of justice,” while various celebrities including Ava Duvernay and Smollet’s Empire co-star Taraji P. Henderson claimed the news validated their support for Smollett.