Jussie Smollett case: Timeline of key moments in alleged attack on 'Empire' actor

CHICAGO -- "Empire" actor and R&B singer Jussie Smollett told Chicago police in January that two men physically attacked him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs. There have been dozens of twists and turns since then. Here are some key moments from the start of this story:

Jan. 22
  • Letter threatening Smollett arrives at the Chicago studio for "Empire"


  • Jan. 29
  • Smollett tells Chicago police he was physically attacked by two men in downtown Chicago while out getting food from a Subway restaurant at 2 a.m. The black and openly gay actor tells authorities the men used racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an "unknown substance" on him. Police say Smollett told detectives that the attackers yelled he was in "MAGA country," an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan that some critics of Trump have decried as racist and discriminatory.


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    Jan. 30
  • Chicago police say they've reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none of the videos show the attack. Police obtain and release images of two people they would like to question.

  • Reports of Smollett's attack draw outrage and support on social media, including from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.


  • Jan. 31
  • Trump tells reporters at the White House that he saw a story the night before about Smollett and that, "It doesn't get worse, as far as I'm concerned."

  • Smollett's family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime. Smollett's family says he "has told the police everything" and "his story has never changed," disputing assertions leveled on social media that he has been less than cooperative and changed his story.


  • Feb. 1
  • Smollett issues a statement telling people that he is OK and thanking them for their support. He says he is working with authorities and has been "100 percent factual and consistent on every level."


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    Feb. 2
  • Smollett gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn't let his attackers win.


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    Feb. 12
  • Chicago police say Smollett turned over some, but not all, of the phone records detectives requested as part of their investigation. Police say the heavily redacted files aren't sufficient. Smollett says he redacted information to protect the privacy of contacts and people not relevant to the attack.


  • Feb. 13
  • Chicago police pick up two Nigerian brothers at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on their return from Nigeria after police learned at least one worked on "Empire." They questioned them and searched their apartment.

  • A law enforcement official also told ABC News that the homes of the men were raided Wednesday night. Police removed shoes, electronic devices and other items they believe could help them determine if the two people played any role in the assault.


  • Feb. 14
  • Chicago detectives say the two are the "persons of interest" from surveillance video.

  • Chicago police say reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed.

  • Producers of "Empire" dispute media reports that Smollett's character was being written off the show.


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    Feb. 15
  • Chicago police say Friday morning the two men are considered suspects.

  • Friday evening, Chicago police release the two Nigerian brothers without charges, saying they have new evidence to check out as a result of questioning them. They give no details of the new evidence.


  • Feb. 16
  • Chicago police say the investigation has "shifted" after their interrogation of the brothers and they are "eager" to speak to Smollett again.

  • Smollett's lawyers issue a statement saying that there is no truth to reports that he played a role in his own attack and that he feels "victimized."


  • Feb. 17
  • Chicago police say they're still seeking a follow-up interview with Smollett after receiving new information that "shifted" their investigation of a reported attack on the "Empire" actor. Guglielimi says police reached out to Smollett's attorney, but says an interview has not been conducted.

  • Guglielimi declines to address reports that a grand jury may hear evidence in the case. "We're not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we've gotten," he says.


  • Feb. 19
  • Chicago police say they're investigating a tip that on the night Smollett reported being attacked, he was seen in an elevator of his apartment building with the two brothers who were later arrested and released from custody in the probe. CPD later deemed the tip "unfounded."

  • Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office announces she has recused herself from the investigation surrounding the alleged attack. First Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Magats is named the acting state's attorney in the matter.

  • The brothers meet with prosecutors and police at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.


  • Feb. 20
  • Chicago police announce that Smollett is officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a false police report. He is charged with felony disorderly conduct.


  • Feb. 21
  • Smollett turns himself in to Chicago police about 5 a.m.

  • Chicago police say during a press conference at 9 a.m. that Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."

  • Smollett appeared in court, where his bond was set at $100,000.

  • Smollett posts bond and is released from custody.


  • Feb. 22
  • "Empire" showrunners announce that Smollett's character will be written off the last two episodes of the season.


  • March 7
  • The Chicago Police Department opens an internal investigation into leaks in the Smollett investigation.


  • March 8
  • A Cook County grand jury returns a 16-count felony indictment against Smollett.


  • March 26
  • Prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against Smollett. His attorneys said his record had "been wiped clean" of the 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was assaulted by two men. The actor insisted that he had "been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one."

  • It was not immediately clear what prompted the decision to dismiss the case. Typically, a minimum condition of dropping cases is some acceptance of responsibility.

  • The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said in a statement that Smollett agreed to forfeit his bond. He paid $10,000 in bail to get out of jail after his arrest.

  • Among the unanswered questions was whether prosecutors still believe Smollett concocted the attack and whether new evidence emerged that altered their view of events.

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the dropping of charges against Smollett "a whitewash of justice" when he and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson responded to the latest development in the case on Tuesday.


  • May 23:
  • An Illinois judge rules that records sealed in the "hoax attack" criminal case of "Empire" cast member Jussie Smollett be made public, ruling that the actor has not displayed the "actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy."

  • Cook County Circuit Court Judge Steven G. Watkins ordered that investigative files in the high-profile case be unsealed after ABC News and other media organizations argued that keeping them from public view was a violation of the First Amendment and the public's right of access to court records.


  • June 21:
  • Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appoints a special prosecutor to investigate the decision to dismiss all charges against Smollett, opening up the possibility that the actor could being charged again, the Associated Press reports.

  • Toomin also suggested that Foxx may have mishandled the case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself.


  • June 24:
  • Police release nearly 70 hours of video in connection to the Smollett investigation, including body camera footage of the actor with a with noose around his neck. The video footage also includes Smollett asking the officers to turn off their recording devices, while another group of clips shows the moment when the police apprehend the two brothers who allege they helped Smollett stage the attack.


  • WLS-TV and ABC News' Stephanie Wash and Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.
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