UPDATE: In response to the felony charge against actor Jussie Smollett, 20th Century Fox Television, the production company behind “Empire” is removing Smollett’s character from the final two episodes of this season, per Sky News.
UPDATE: Actor Jussie Smollett has turned himself in to Chicago Police, to answer for his felony charge of filing a false police report in the case of his alleged attack. Chicago Police has released the mugshot of his arrest.
Feb 20 (Reuters) – Actor Jussie Smollett was named as a suspect in a criminal investigation into whether he lied about being attacked by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs, Chicago police said on Wednesday.
Smollett, a 36-year-old black, openly gay actor on the hip-hop TV drama “Empire,” ignited a firestorm on social media by telling police on Jan. 29 that two apparent supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump beat him up on the streets of Chicago, put a noose around his neck, and poured bleach over him.
“Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony),” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter. “Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury.”
Lawyers for Smollett, who has stuck by his story for three weeks as police failed to find surveillance video of an assault and suspicions of a hoax grew on social media, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Smollett’s agent and public relations managers also did not return calls from Reuters.
Twentieth Century Fox Television, which produces “Empire,” said it had no comment on the development. Earlier on Wednesday, the studio said, “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.”
TWO NIGERIAN BROTHERS
Last week, Chicago police questioned two Nigerian brothers recognized from surveillance footage near the scene of the supposed attack but released them two days later, without charge, in light of what investigators said was new evidence.
Local TV station CBS Chicago on Wednesday released a videotape it had obtained showing the two brothers buying a red hat and ski masks from a hardware store days before the alleged attack.
Smollett told police his assailants were white, that one wore a red hat, and that they shouted “This is MAGA country” – an apparent reference to Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” – as they struck him, the New York Times has reported.
Chicago police say the charge of filing a false police report carries a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison.
“Empire” has earned multiple Emmy nominations since its 2015 debut. Smollett plays the character Jamal Lyon, a member of the family that is the focus of the show. (Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting Daniel Trotta; Writing by Dan Whitcomb Editing by Bill Tarrant, Chris Reese and Richard Chang)
Timeline of Events Surrounding The Jussie Smollett Attack Hoax
- Morning of Jan. 29: Jussie Smollett reports he was the victim of a hate crime.
- The allegations: Police interview him at the hospital. He says two people yelled racial, homophobic and political statements at him, beat him, put a noose on his neck, threw bleach on him and fled, according to Wodnick. Smollett had scratches on his face.
- The investigation: Police launched a hate crime investigation and found two people of interest on a video. Investigators issued a community alert for information on them and searched the area for cameras and witnesses. They interviewed more than 100 people and found more than 55 cameras. “The city came together to investigate and help the police with this crime,” Wodnick said.
- Persons of interest found: After reviewing the cameras, police discovered the alleged offenders fled in a cab, which detectives tracked down. Investigators interviewed the cab driver and got video from the cab. Police tracked their movements to a ride share, and it eventually led them to what “we needed in order to identify the two persons of interest,” Wodnick said.
- Suspects arrested: Investigators later learned that they were going to the O’Hare International Airport and were catching a flight to Nigeria. The alleged offenders purchased roundtrip tickets with them returning to Chicago on Feb.13. As police waited for them to return, they issued more than 50 search warrants and subpoenas. Police took them into custody when they reentered the country at US customs.
- “Something smelled fishy”: The men’s attorney told police that “something smelled fishy” and that “she did not think that they were the offenders as were reported,” Wodnick said. She allowed police to give them a video interview and said “she worked with us very, very closely to get to the point where she came to me and said, ‘They are not offenders. They are victims,'” Wodnick said.
- No longer suspects: Police worked with the men to get a timeline and document their story. “We were able to substantiate those things,” Wodnick said. The men were released and police went to the grand jury.
- The grand jury investigation: Police worked with the state attorney’s office and went to the grand jury. The two men instead served as witnesses. Smollett’s attorneys contacted police and said they had evidence to postpone the grand jury, Wodnick said. Detectives met with them but they gave no new information, Wodnick said.
- Charges filed: State attorney’s office approved a felony charge against Smollett for disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.
- Today at 6 a.m. ET: Smollett turned himself in.
Read the bond proffer on Jussie Smollett, released today, that gives the fullest summary of the Chicago Police investigation so far.
ABC Casts First Black ‘Bachelor’ Following Outcry For Diversity
(CNN) — Following a petition urging ABC to address a lack of diversity on its enormously popular reality dating franchise, ABC has cast the first black “Bachelor.”
Matt James will be the star of the 25th season of “The Bachelor.”
James, 28, was a popular contestant on Season 16 of “The Bachelorette” and is the best friend of former “Bachelorette” contestant Tyler Cameron, with whom he runs the non-profit ABC Food Tours.
“Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare’s season,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a statement. “When filming couldn’t move forward as planned, we were given the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor.”
“We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience,” Burke added.
A Change.org petition urging ABC to address a lack of diversity on the reality dating franchise, which includes “The Bachelor” and its lead spinoff, “The Bachelorette,” garnered the support of thousands, including franchise alums.
The petition stated that “ABC and Warner Bros. have been producing Bachelor content for 18 years. During that time they’ve cast 40 season leads, yet only one Black lead. This is unacceptable.”
“As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color (“BIPOC”) relationships, families, and storylines,” the petition reads. “The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country–both in front of and behind the camera.”
Attorney Rachel Lindsay was the first African-American lead of the franchise as “The Bachelorette” during Season 13 of the dating series..
Lindsay retweeted a call to support the diversity campaign launched by writer and franchise superfan Brett S. Vergara earlier this week.
Nick Viall, Season 21’s “Bachelor,” retweeted the campaign and encouraged others to do the same.
The discussion about a lack of inclusion in the franchise not a new one.
In 2012, two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed a class action lawsuit alleging that ABC was intentionally excluding people of color from leading the show after they both applied to be “The Bachelor” in 2011.
Despite the addition of more contestants of color — and the casting of Juan Pablo Galavis, who is Latino, as Season 18’s “Bachelor” — many viewers have continued to criticize racial disparities in the franchise.
Lindsay said during an interview with “AfterBuzz” last week that she views “The Bachelor’s” diversity issues as “embarrassing” and has considered cutting ties with the franchise.
“We are on 45 presidents. And in 45 presidents there’s been one black president,” Lindsday said. “You are almost on par to say you’re more likely to become the President of the United States than you are a black lead in this franchise. That’s insane. That’s ridiculous.”
Burke said that the network is committed to diversity.
“This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise,” she said. “We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”
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Father of Sandy Hook School Shooting Victim Dies In Apparent Suicide
(CNN) — A father dedicated to helping prevent mass shootings after his daughter was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre has died of an apparent suicide.
The body of Jeremy Richman was found in his Connecticut office building Monday morning, Newtown police said.
His death is the third suicide in the past week related to school massacres.
Richman, 49, was the father of 6-year-old Avielle Richman, who was among 20 children and six adults killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Police said they “will not disclose the method or any other details” of Richman’s death, other than it does not appear to be suspicious.
Parkland Shooting Survivor Sydney Aiello Dies At 19
(CBS) — On the day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sydney Aiello escaped with her life. However, the grief of losing 17 of her classmates and teachers, as well as the long-lasting effects of enduring such a traumatic event, weighed heavily on her. And this weekend, at the age of 19, Aiello took her own life.
Now, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community is mourning yet another loss.
Sydney’s mother, Cara Aiello, told CBS Miami that her daughter struggled with survivor’s guilt and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the year following the tragedy. And while she reportedly never asked for help, she struggled to attend college classes because she was scared of being in a classroom.
Sydney was also a close friend of Meadow Pollack, one of the students who was shot and killed in the Parkland shooting. Meadow’s father, Andrew, became one of the most visible of the Parkland victims’ parents when he delivered a searing and emotional speech at the White House just a few days after the shooting, arguing for an increase in school safety rather than changes to America’s gun laws.
While the nation’s attention turned to budding young activists like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, however, other Parkland survivors were suffering in silence. And the Aiello family’s tragedy is an all too painful reminder that trauma effects teens deeply, often quietly, and for years.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the shooting, told CBS Miami he worries that more traumatized Parkland teens will take their own lives. So, he has focused his grief and his efforts into suicide prevention.
“It breaks my heart that we’ve lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas,” Petty said. “My advice to parents is to ask questions, don’t wait.”
There is now a GoFundMe page to help Sydney Aiello’s parents and brother pay for her memorial services.
If you or someone you know is struggling, call
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
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