Police provide detailed timeline of staged attack on Jussie Smollett

After speaking to the two men, their attorney, Gloria Schmidt, told detectives that “something smelled fishy,” police said.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
February 24, 2019 12:04
4 minute read.
Jussie Smollett exits Cook County Department of Corrections after posting bail in Chicago, Illinois

Jussie Smollett exits Cook County Department of Corrections after posting bail in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., February 21, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA LOTT)

 
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American actor Jussie Smollett was arrested by Chicago police and charged for providing false information when he reported an aggravated battery. Authorities claim that Smollett paid two men $3,500 to stage an attack against him.

The attack caused an uproar as Smollett was portrayed as the victim of a hate crime which didn’t actually happen. As the investigation was conducted after the attack, police went from regarding the incident as a potential hate crime to considering it as an alleged hoax.

Edward Wodnicki, commander of the Area Central Detective Division of the Chicago police, provided a detailed timeline of the investigation which led detectives to conclude that Smollett faked the attack during a press conference last Thursday, according to BuzzFeed news.

Smollett reported the attack to police at 2 AM on Jan. 29 as a hate crime. He claimed that two people had yelled anti-black and anti-gay slurs at him, beat him, put a rope around his neck, poured a bleach-like substance on him, and then fled the scene.

Smollett suffered from a few bruises and scratches which were later determined as “self-inflicted.”

Chicago police started a full-scale investigation into the attack, saying on Twitter that they were taking the allegations of a hate crime “very seriously.”

On Jan. 30, police released surveillance footage showing two men in the area of the incident. The footage didn’t capture the incident itself, but police began looking for the men as people of interest.

At the press conference on Thursday, police stated that Smollett likely wanted the incident captured on footage, but the camera was facing another direction at the time.

Smollett was seen on surveillance footage leaving his house for a Subway restaurant and then returning to his house, where the alleged attack happened.

At the time, police began searching for more footage and witnesses in an attempt to find the two alleged attackers, according to BuzzFeed.

Detectives interviewed over 100 people in the area and reviewed footage from around 35 Chicago police pod cameras and 20 private security cameras, in an effort to track the movements of the two people.

From the videos, police determined that two men fled on foot towards the Chicago River. They then got into a cab by the Hyatt Regency hotel and exited the cab about 15 minutes later and headed to their Lakeview apartment.

Police interviewed the cab driver and used surveillance footage to try and reconstruct their movements before the alleged attack, BuzzFeed reported.

By backtracking their movements, police determined that the two men had taken Uber to the area of the planned attack from a few blocks away from their apartment and then took a taxi to the scene of the incident.

From the time they were dropped off by the taxi to the time of the incident, footage shows the two men wandering around the area.

At 2 am, the two men waited for Smollett at the scene of the planned attack, but Smollett didn’t show up on time. The two men waited on a bench near the area and staged the attack when Smollett showed up four minutes later. The incident took about 45 seconds, prosecutors said, according to BuzzFeed.

Uber records lead investigators to identify the two men as brothers Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo.
Police determined that the men had flown from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Nigeria. They were set to return to Chicago on Feb. 13.

In the meantime, police executed over 50 search warrants and subpoenas, including for phone and social media records. Authorities determined from phone records that Smollett had talked to the two men at least an hour before and after the incident, and while they were in Nigeria.

The two men were taken into custody at O’Hare Airport on Feb. 13, according to BuzzFeed. After speaking to the two men, their attorney, Gloria Schmidt, told detectives that “something smelled fishy,” Wodnicki said.

Schmidt believed that the two men were the victims, not the offenders in the case. Detectives were then allowed to interview the suspects on video.

“It was at that time that this investigation started to spin in a completely new direction,” Wodnicki said.

Police used the information from the two men to substantiate the timeline and details of the incident.

On Feb. 15, after being in custody for about 47 hours, the two men were released without any charges. They were no longer considered suspects, and instead were considered witnesses, according to police.

Detectives were later able to obtain a $3,500 check Smollett had given to the brothers to stage the attack. He was also going to pay them $500 more once they returned from Nigeria, according to BuzzFeed.

On Feb. 18, police scheduled a meeting with the Cook County grand jury to look into the witnesses’ statements. Police said that, at the time, Smollett’s attorneys wanted to bring evidence to postpone the grand jury, but Wodnicki said that they “gave us no new information.”

The two witnesses testified to the grand jury and this past Wednesday, police officially filed Smollett as a suspect for filing a false police report while detectives presented evidence to the grand jury.

Chicago detectives arranged with Smollett’s attorneys for him to turn himself in once the felony charge was approved. Smollett turned himself in at 5 am on Thursday.

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