Since January of 2019, many have been trying to figure out what exactly is going on with Jussie Smollett. Following initial reports that the actor had been attacked outside of a Chicago Subway while filming the Fox series Empire, fans have questioned everything from whether he was actually attacked to just how much trust we should put in the Chicago Police Department’s statements. The tale included former Empire extras, a racist and homophobic letter being sent to the Empire set, and Jussie declaring himself the “gay Tupac.”
On the morning of Feb. 21, 2019, the case took a major turn, with Smollett turning himself in to Chicago police after being considered the orchestrator of what they’re now calling a hoax. What follows is a roller coaster of charges being brought up and dropped only to have Smollett indicted once again, all part of what his attorney calls a “tremendous rush to judgment” that ended up with Smollett losing his Empire gig and damaging his reputation. Over the next three years, Smollett’s case was tried both in real court and in the court of public opinion, and after some false starts, a number of witnesses, and an unsuccessful bid for a new trial, Smollett was found guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police. After being sentenced to jail time, Smollett was surprisingly released from the Cook County Department of Corrections detention center just days later.
With so many twists and turns over the last few years, here is the full timeline of Jussie Smollett’s case.
Threat letter sent to Empire show address a week before actual attack have several things in common: target is Jussie Smollett, knowledge of where he works, rope around neck, hate language, MAGA ref, & **mark under eye,** -- strong connection between letter & alleged attack.  pic.twitter.com/iLOp9qoAP2
— Jolie Adams (@Jolieishere) February 13, 2019
Date: Jan. 22, 2019
What happened: Less than a week before the attack, a letter arrived at the offices of Fox's Empire is filmed. It was addressed to Smollett and not only contained racist and homophobic language, but is said to have contained white powder.
What Smollett says happened
Security footage is released
The Smollett family responds
Jussie Smollett issues a statement
Jussie Smollett calls himself "The Gay Tupac!"
Smollett's phone records submitted, rejected
Two men are arrested
The 'Good Morning America' interview
Osundairo brothers released
Was it staged?
The Osundairo brothers speak
Smollett is a suspect
Smollett brought into police custody
Date: Feb. 21, 2019
What happened: Early Thursday morning, Smollett turned himself in to Chicago police. The resulting class 4 felony charges against Smollett could result in up to three years in prison and an estimated $25,000 in additional fines.
During the subsequent press conference, CPD superintendent Eddie Johnson called this incident a "publicity stunt" and "a scar Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve." They repeated claims that Smollett sent the original letter that started the entire ordeal and confirmed that he'd paid the two brothers $3,500 for their part in the incident. The reasoning? According to Johnson, Smollett was "dissastified" with the amount of money he was making on Empire. Chicago PD also called his Good Morning America appearance "shameful" and asked that Jussie apologizes to the city of Chicago.
Later that day, Smollett was released from police custody after posting $10,000 cash towards the $100,00 bond he was being held on. Multiple outlets reported that he made his way to the Empire set. Fox, who'd stood behind Smollett while this case developed, released a statement saying that they "are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options." Meanwhile, Smollett's legal team released their own statement: “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
Smollet cut from final episodes of 'Empire'
Date: Feb. 23, 2019
Less than 24 hours after the news of his scenes in Empire being cut, a number of questions regarding Jussie’s case came about. Initially, there were reports claiming that Jussie had modeled his alleged hoax after the attack Empire executive producer Lee Daniels’ cousin suffered in January, which Daniels said only occurred because he is gay. Meanwhile, the FBI said that they weren’t certain that Jussie sent the letter that kicked this whole ordeal off in the first place. Finally, there was talk that Jussie’s Empire character might be recast.
What was the check for?
Hospital employees fired, internal investigation begins
Grand jury indicts Smollett on 16 felony counts
Osundairo brothers feel they were "taken advantage of"
Smollett pleads not guilty
All charges dropped
Smollett indicted by special prosecutor
Smollett pleads not guilty, wants new charges killed
Smollett's trial begins
Smollett testifies about his relationship with Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo
Don Lemon catches heat over tests to Smollett
No verdict is reached after first day of deliberations
Smollett found guilty
Smollett sentenced to 150 days in jail
Former 'Empire' castmate Taraji P. Henson shares support
Date: Mar. 13, 2022
What happened: Days after Jussie’s sentence, Smollett’s former Empire castmate Taraji P. Henson shared her support for Smollett with the #FREEJUSSIE hashtag on her Instagram page, along with a statement.
“I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” Henson said. “Emmett Till was brutally beat and ultimately murdered because of a lie and none of the people involved with his demise spent one day in jail, even after Carolyn Bryant admitted that her claims were false. No one was hurt or killed during Jussie’s ordeal. He has already lost everything, EVERYTHING!”
“To me as an artist not able to create that in itself is punishment enough,” Henson continued. “He can’t get a job. No one in Hollywood will hire him and again as an artist who loves to create, that is prison. My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation because in this case that would seem fair.”
Smollett's legal team files emergency motion for his release
Smollett is released from jail
Date: Mar. 16, 2022
What happened: Smollett was released from Cook County Jail on the night of Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Part of Smollett’s release requires him to post a $150,000 personal recognizance bond, which meant he’d need to agree to show up to a scheduled court date, but a down payment would not be needed at the time.