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A Series Of Text Messages And Secret Meetings Is How Prosecutors Say Jussie Smollett Staged His Attack

Prosecutors provided a detailed timeline of how they believe the Empire actor staged an attack.

Posted on February 21, 2019, at 5:46 p.m. ET

Kamil Krzaczynski / AP

Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail following his release.

More than three weeks after Jussie Smollett told police he was attacked by two men in Chicago who threw a chemical on him and mocked him with anti-gay and racial slurs, the Empire actor was arrested and charged with filing a false police report.

Using surveillance video, in-car taxi cameras, Uber receipts, credit card records, and bank accounts, the Chicago Police Department built a case that the actor allegedly fabricated the attack as a "publicity stunt" because he was dissatisfied with his salary.

The case took several twists and turns along the way, with many people casting doubt on Smollett's story early on, even as the actor maintained he was the victim of a hate crime.

A day after Chicago prosecutors charged Smollett, the city's police superintendent publicly blasted the actor, saying he slapped "everyone in the city in the face" by staging an attack.

Here is how prosecutors allege the actor choreographed the attack.

Jan. 22, 2019

Prosecutors allege everything began when Smollett received a letter at the studio where Empire is filmed containing threats and a white powder that has now been determined to be crushed ibuprofen.

The letter also had cut-out letters pieced together spelling out "Smollett Jussie you will die" and "MAGA" written on the top left of the envelope.

The letter is now with the FBI for forensic analysis.

Jan. 25, 2019

Smollett sent a text message to Abimbola Osundairo — whom he had known personally since 2017 — asking when he would be leaving for his trip to Nigeria. After Osundairo responded that he planned to depart the night of Jan. 29, Smollett allegedly texted him asking to meet.

"I might need your help on the low. You around to meet up to talk face to face?" prosecutors say Smollett texted Osundairo.

Later that afternoon, Smollett met up with Osundairo and expressed his disappointment with how the Empire studio handled the anti-gay and racist letter that had arrived days earlier.

Prosecutors allege that during the car ride, Smollett said he wanted to stage an attack in which it would appear as if Osundairo assaulted him and suggested that his brother, Olabinjo, could assist.

When the men drove back to the brothers' apartment, Smollett allegedly detailed the plan.

According to prosecutors, Smollett told the men he wanted the attack to happen the night of Jan. 28 near his apartment building — and told them not hurt him too badly.

He allegedly told Olabinjo Osundairo to place a rope around his neck and pour gasoline on him while yelling, "This is MAGA country."

Before departing, Smollett allegedly gave the men a $100 bill to pay for the supplies needed for the staged attack.

Tom Gianni / AP

Jan. 27, 2019

Smollett gave the brothers a run-through of the staged attack, taking them to the scene where he wanted it to take place, and provided further details, including that it was to happen at 10 p.m. the following night. He also told them to pour bleach on him instead of gasoline, prosecutors allege.

He also instructed the men to not bring their cellphones with them and pointed out a surveillance camera he believed would capture the incident.

Prosecutors say the actor then gave the brothers a personal check of $3,500 written out to Abimbola Osundairo.

Jan. 28, 2019

The brothers purchased the supplies they needed, including red hats and rope using the $100 bill Smollett had given them three days earlier. Abimbola Osundairo also deposited the $3,500 check into his bank account.

Later in the evening, the plan for the staged attack was pushed back because Smollett's flight into O'Hare airport was delayed by four hours.

Jan. 29, 2019

Smollett's flight from New York to Chicago landed at 12:30 a.m. About 20 minutes later, Smollett allegedly called Abimbola Osundairo and told him the attack would happen at 2 a.m.

A few minutes later, Abimbola Osundairo called an Uber to his apartment. As he approached the area where the attack was to take place, the brothers got out of the Uber vehicle and hailed a taxi to bring them within three blocks of the arranged scene.

Meanwhile, Smollett arrived at his apartment around 1:30 a.m. and 15 minutes later left the building to walk to Subway.

When Smollett arrived around 2:04 a.m., authorities say the staged attack proceeded as instructed, lasting approximately 45 seconds and out of the surveillance camera's view.

The prosecutor said that a witness who was interviewed — an NBC News employee — had just parked her car around the corner from the staged attack and told investigators she did not hear any yelling, despite Smollett insisting his attackers yelled racial and anti-gay slurs.

The brothers then fled the scene and took a taxi back to their apartment.

Around 2:30 a.m., Smollett's manager called police to report the incident. When officers arrived at the actor's apartment, police saw that he had a rope draped around his neck.

At around 7:45 p.m., Smollett called Abimbola Osundairo and the two men spoke for approximately five minutes. The brothers then boarded their flight to Nigeria.

Feb. 13, 2019

The brothers returned to the US from their trip and were detained at the airport. That same day, police executed a search warrant at their apartment, where they collected evidence linking the brothers to Smollett.

Feb. 20, 2019

Smollett was charged with filing a false police report, a felony that in Illinois falls under disorderly conduct.

Feb. 21, 2019

Smollett turned himself in to police around 5 a.m. He was later released after posting $100,000 bond. His next court appearance is March 14.



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