JUSSIE SMOLLETT IS TO BE SENTENCED TODAY IN CHICAGO
CHICAGO (AP) – There is a new chapter being written in the Jussie Smollett saga. The disgraced ex-“Empire” actor is to be sentenced today in Chicago. Smollett, his lawyers, prosecutors and the judge will return to the same courtroom where three months ago, a jury convicted him of staging his own hate crime. The judge has a wide range of options in sentencing. The maximum is three years in prison for each of the five felony counts for which he was convicted – which few believe he will get. The judge could give Smollett probation, which would mean no jail time. The judge could also impose fines and restitution to help authorities recoup the money spent on the probe into what Smollett claimed was a vicious racist and homophobic attack on him in January 2019.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT – WHICH ONE?
CHICAGO (AP) – Just as he testified in his own trial three months ago, it’s expected Jussie Smollett will speak again today at his sentencing hearing in Chicago. But unlike last time, the public will get to hear and see him, because a camera is being allowed in the courtroom. It will also be interesting to see if Smollett will acknowledge guilt in the case – or continue to insist the two brothers he allegedly hired really beat him in January, 2019. If he sticks to his story, it might prompt the judge to sentence him to jail time for charges that don’t usually warrant more than probation.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT – THE TIMELINE
CHICAGO (AP) – Jussie Smollett will be sentenced today for his conviction on charges that he lied to Chicago police when the former “Empire” actor and R&B singer reported being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack more than three years ago. Some key moments in the story:
Jan. 22, 2019
– Smollett receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the studio in Chicago where “Empire” is filmed. Police later say they believe Smollett sent the letter himself.
Jan. 29, 2019
– Jussie Smollett tells police he was attacked by two men in downtown Chicago at 2 a.m. The actor says the men used racist and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an “unknown substance” on him. Police say Smollett, who is Black and gay, told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan that some Trump critics call racist and discriminatory.
Jan. 30, 2019
– Chicago police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack. Police obtain and release images of two people they want to question, calling them “persons of interest.”
– Reports of an assault on Smollett draw outrage and support for him on social media from some politicians and celebrities.
Jan. 31, 2019
– Smollett’s family issues a statement calling the attack a hate crime and disputing claims that he changed his story.
Feb. 1, 2019
– Smollett issues a statement saying he’s OK, that he’s working with authorities and has been “100 percent factual and consistent on every level.”
Feb. 2, 2019
– Smollett opens a concert in West Hollywood, California, with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
Feb. 13, 2019
– Chicago police pick up two brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after police learn at least one worked on “Empire.” Police question the men, who were returning to Chicago from Nigeria, and search their apartment.
Feb. 15, 2019
– Chicago police release the brothers without charges after arresting them on suspicion of assault and holding them for nearly 48 hours. A police spokesman says they’re no longer suspects.
Feb. 16, 2019
– Police say the investigation has “shifted” after detectives questioned the brothers, and request a follow-up interview with Smollett. His lawyers say he feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.
Feb. 17, 2019
– Chicago police reach out to Smollett’s attorney saying they still want to interview him again because new information has “shifted” their investigation.
Feb. 19, 2019
– Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recuses herself from the investigation. Her office says the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution…to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.”
Feb. 20, 2019
– Prosecutors charge Smollett with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about the alleged attack.
Feb. 21, 2019
– Chicago police say Smollett surrenders to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, punishable by up to three years in prison.
– Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the two brothers to help him.
Feb. 22, 2019
– “Empire” producers say Smollett’s character to be removed from the final two episodes of the season.
March 7, 2019
– A Cook County grand jury returns a 16-count indictment charging Smollett with falsely reporting an offense.
March 26, 2019
– Smollett’s attorneys say charges alleging he lied to police have been dropped.
March 28, 2019
– A city official says Chicago is seeking $130,000 from Smollett to cover the cost of the investigation into his reported beating, which police say was staged.
April 11, 2019
– The city of Chicago files a lawsuit seeking to recoup the investigation costs.
April 15, 2019
– The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office releases thousands of documents in the Smollett case in response to open records requests, including a text from Foxx calling Smollett a “washed up celeb” who was overcharged.
April 23, 2019
– The brothers who said they helped Smollett stage the attack file a defamation lawsuit against the actor’s attorneys.
Aug. 23, 2019
– Judge names former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor to investigate why charges against Smollett were dropped.
Feb. 11, 2020
– Webb says grand jury returns six-count indictment against Smollett, accusing him of lying to police.
Feb. 24, 2020
– Smollett pleads not guilty to restored charges.
Oct. 15, 2021
– Judge James Linn denies a last-ditch effort to dismiss the criminal case against Smollett and sets his trial for Nov. 29.
Nov. 29, 2021
– Smollett’s trial starts with jury selection and opening statements from lawyers.
Dec. 6, 2021
– Smollett testifies in his own defense.
Dec. 8, 2021
– The jury begins deliberations in Smollett’s trial.
Dec. 9, 2021
– A jury convicts Smollett on five counts of disorderly conduct, and acquits him on a sixth count.
TODAY – March 10, 2022
– Smollett is scheduled to return to court for sentencing.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO REPORT ON UKRAINE AID CLARIFIED
NEW YORK (AP) – Leonardo DiCaprio has donated to humanitarian organizations backing Ukraine – though an earlier widely circulated report was inaccurate. In recent days, reports have circulated online that DiCaprio donated $10 million to an organization to benefit Ukraine. Those reports also said his grandmother was Ukrainian. Now a person close to DiCaprio says neither the amount of the donation nor his grandmother’s heritage was accurate. But the source does say DiCaprio has donated to several humanitarian groups in support of Ukraine, though no dollar amounts were provided.
TONY AWARDS TO RETURN IN JUNE
NEW YORK (AP) – It’s another sign that show business is getting back to normal. The Tony Awards will take place this year – and at a time and place it used to before the pandemic. The Broadway League and the American Theater Wing say the Tony Awards will be held June 12 at Radio City Music Hall. The show will air live at 8 p.m., eastern on CBS. But this year, there will be an extra hour of awards programming an hour earlier, available on the CBS streaming outlet, Paramount+.