Days after his arrest and a month before the surprise announcement that charges would be dropped against Jussie Smollett, prosecutors in Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office told Chicago police detectives that the actor would be let off with a fine and community service instead of being taken to trial.
But there was no mention that the case against the “Empire” actor would be dismissed, new investigative documents released by Chicago police Thursday show.
After Smollett was indicted on disorderly conduct charges Feb. 28, detectives were informed by Foxx’s office “that they could no longer investigate the crime,” the documents show.
Risa Lanier, one of Foxx’s top deputies, told them then “that she felt the case would be settled with Smollett paying the City of Chicago $10,000 in restitution and doing community service,” and that she’d be in touch to request the rest of their evidence, detectives wrote.
But no one from Foxx’s office ever reached out for the remainder of the mountain of evidence.
And it wasn’t until March 26 that news dropped publicly that Smollett’s case was settled just as Lanier had said — with the bombshell caveat that all charges against him were dropped.
That’s among the revelations in the nearly 500-page trove of documents from the Smollett investigation released by Chicago police, detailing the painstaking timeline of how detectives say they unraveled the actor’s allegedly bogus claim that he had been targeted in a homophobic, racist hate crime near his Streeterville home on January 29.
Detectives still assumed Smollett would have to agree to a plea deal and closed the case for “arrest and prosecution” after the Feb. 28 meeting with Lanier. The dropped charges caught even police Supt. Eddie Johnson and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel off-guard weeks later.
Since then, the bizarre case involving Smollett, 36, has drawn intense scrutiny to Foxx’s office, with claims of preferential treatment for the celebrity.
Police said they still have nearly 70 hours of video evidence from the case that could take another two more weeks to clear for release.
Foxx’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the newly released files.
After the alleged hate crime put a national spotlight on Chicago, detectives noted on Feb. 6 that Smollett declined to release his medical records from the injuries he claimed to have suffered at the hands of two men hurling racial and homophobic slurs on East North Water Street.
Smollett told detectives they had yelled, “Empire f- - - -t, Empire n - - - - -,” and “This is MAGA country, n - - - - -,” poured bleach on him and left a noose around his neck, which he ostensibly didn’t realize until he was walking home after the alleged attack.
Detectives asked him to submit a buccal swab “for elimination for touching the rope,” but he said he would “think about it.”
They also wanted to know why Smollett’s sweater wasn’t dirty, “to which he explained they were on snow and ice.”
The case files detail investigators’ efforts to identify the Osundairo brothers, a pair of former “Empire” extras whom Smollett allegedly paid to carry out the bogus beating.
Shortly after the incident, detectives began combing through nearby surveillance cameras and interviewing potential witnesses, including a cab driver and a ride-hail driver who drove the brothers around on Jan. 29. A ride-hail driver who picked the brothers up in the 4100 block of North Ashland said he feared he was going to be robbed because they “refused to communicate with him.”
The driver and other witnesses positively identified at least one of the brothers in photo arrays.
On Feb. 14 — the same day a tearful interview on “Good Morning America” aired on ABC, in which he maintained the details of the alleged attack — Smollett met again with Area Central detectives. During the interview, investigators pointed to inconsistencies in his account, including his initial claims that the attackers were white.
Smollett said he “assumed they were white due to the comments that were made,” though he could only see the area above the bridge of their noses, detectives wrote.
After being shown photos of the Osundairo brothers, Smollett acknowledged that he knew them personally. When he realized they were in custody in connection with the attack, he said it couldn’t have been them because “[t]hey are black as sin.”
On Feb. 15, Olabinjo Osundairo told investigators about the plan for the hoax attack while he was being questioned at Area Central police headquarters.
“In essence Olabinjo Osundairo stated that a plan was formulated and put into play by [redacted] to conduct a staged incident where [redacted] was beaten by Olabinjo Usundairo and Abimbola Osundairo posing as persons other than themselves,” according to a case report, which notes the plan was hatched because Smollett “was unhappy about the response he received over hate mail which was delivered to him.”
Because Abimbola Osundairo was “very skeptical” about speaking with police, investigators allowed his brother to join him for his interview. He then corroborated his brother’s account of the incident.
A source close to Smollett said the newly released police files show that Smollett’s account of the incident was consistent.
“The entire case against Jussie, as shown in the police files released today, is based, not on evidence, but on the testimony of the Osundairo brothers — two men who gave multiple versions of their stories and one of whom had a known criminal record,” the source said.
“Given the inconsistencies in the brothers’ stories, the lack of evidence and lack of motive, the State’s Attorney’s office did the proper thing when it dropped the charges.”
The brothers have since filed a defamation lawsuit against Smollett’s attorneys, saying the actor “directed every aspect” of the attack.