Three weeks after Jussie Smollett said he'd been the victim of a hate crime, the "Empire" star found himself in police custody, charged with filing a false police report. USA TODAY looks at the major developments in the investigation into the actor's alleged assault.
Jan. 29: Smollett files police report alleging assault on Chicago street
Chicago police report to the actor's residence around 2:45 a.m. CT. He tells them he was approached by two men who got his attention by calling the gay, black actor, "Empire," followed by homophobic and racial slurs. He said they then began punching him in the face, placed a rope around his neck and poured a chemical (later revealed to be bleach) on him. Smollett tells police his assailants yelled "This is MAGA country!" before running away from the scene. After filing the report, he follows the officer's suggestion to seek medical treatment and goes to the emergency room at Northwestern Medical Center.
Police release images of 'potential persons of interest': After combing through hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, detectives release several images of "potential persons of interest" they seek to question.
The FBI gets involved: After hearing about his alleged attack, Chicago congressman Rep. Bobby Rush contacts FBI director Christopher Wray requesting that the agency open "an immediate and sweeping civil rights investigation into the racist and homophobic attack" on the actor and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker urges his colleagues to support Rush's bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime.
Media learns FBI is investigating letter received Jan. 22: Chicago police advise media reporting on the alleged assault that the FBI is investigating a threatening letter addressed to Smollett, received at Fox's Chicago studios, where "Empire" is based. It contains a white powder later determined to be acetaminophen. The letter's existence and the FBI's involvement do not become widely known until after Smollett files his police report.
During a Feb. 14 interview with "Good Morning America," Smollett tells Robin Roberts that he believes the letter is linked to his assault "because on the letter, it had a stick figure hanging from a tree with a gun pointing towards it with the words that said 'Smollett, Jussie you will die,' " he said, adding that the return address was simply listed as "MAGA."
Smollett’s family calls his attack a 'racial and homophobic hate crime': In their statement, the actor's relatives insist he “has told the police everything” and “his story has never changed,” disputing assertions leveled on social media that he had been less than cooperative and changed his story.
Smollett speaks out for first time since attack: In his first public statement, the 36-year-old actor tells he is OK but expresses frustration with how the case is being reported, saying, "I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level." But, he said, "despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served."
Smollett returns to the stage: Less than a week after the attack, he keeps a previously scheduled performance at a Los Angeles club, where he tells fans, "I had to be here tonight, y'all. I couldn't let those (expletives) win."
Police reject Smollett's phone records: Sgt. Rocco Alioto tells USA TODAY that although they appreciate Smollett's cooperation, the phone records he provided "do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation as they were limited and heavily redacted." Smollett's representative, Chris Barstardi, says the actor redacted information to protect the privacy of contacts and people not relevant to the attack.
Police identify and interview suspects: Chicago police pick up two brothers of Nigerian descent upon their return to Chicago's O’Hare International Airport. During questioning, detectives learn that at least one had appeared on "Empire" and carry out a search of their residences.
Police deny rumors attack was a hoax: Chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi insists that investigators still view Smollett as the victim of the crime and not a perpetrator while Fox denies rumors that the actor orchestrated the whole thing because he was being written off of "Empire."
Smollett gives interview to 'GMA': In a lengthy conversation with Robin Roberts, he says he is upset with both his assailants and those attacking him in the press: "It's not that you don't believe this is the truth; you don't even want to see this is the truth."
He also suggests that he would have been taken more seriously if his assailants weren't white: "It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would’ve supported me a lot more, and that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now."
Police arrest 'persons of interest': Guglielimi says the two “persons of interest” are now considered suspects. He says the men – brothers of Nigerian descent who reside in Chicago and are U.S. citizens – are in custody but have not been charged with a crime. After being held for nearly 48 hours, the men are released without being charged. A police spokesman says the two are no longer considered suspects and that investigators have new evidence to consider as a result of questioning them.
Brothers say Smollett paid them to stage attack: Police say the investigation has “shifted” after detectives question the two brothers. Police say they’ve requested a follow-up interview with Smollett. Smollett’s lawyers say the actor feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.
Police request follow-up interview: Police say they’re still seeking a follow-up interview with Smollett after the brothers told detectives he paid them to stage the attack. He also declines to address reports that a grand jury may hear evidence in the case, saying: “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.”
Police dismiss report Smollett was seen with assailants on night of attack: Detectives investigate and then dismiss a tip that the "Empire" star was seen with the two brothers in an elevator in his apartment building, saying it was not backed up by video evidence.
Prosecutor recuses herself from investigation: Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recuses herself from the investigation due to her familiarity with potential witnesses in the case. She later says the reason for the recusal is that she had conversations with a Smollett family member after the incident was reported.
Smollett charged with filing false police report: Hours after a follow-up interview with Smollett's legal team, police classify him as a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a false police report, and present evidence to a grand jury which approves felony charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
Smollett surrenders to police: Guglielmi confirms, "Jussie Smollet is under arrest and in custody of detectives" after turning himself in at a central booking facility. His bond hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. CT.
Police say Smollett paid brothers $3,500 to stage attack: At a press conference, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that the actor staged the attack to look like a hate crime in order to "take advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."
He explained, "First Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial homophobic and political language. When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack... The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary so he concocted a story about being attacked."
Smollett indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct and lying to police: A Cook County grand jury handed up charges for each time the actor "knowingly" told police that he was the victim of a "battery, a hate crime and an aggravated battery." Prosecutors say he knew at the time "there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed."
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jussie Smollett investigation timeline: How the actor went from assault victim to suspect