Tuesday 23 July 2019

Police release hundreds of files from Smollett investigation

It includes more than 90 hours of video footage.

Jussie Smollett alleged he was attacked in Chicago (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
Jussie Smollett alleged he was attacked in Chicago (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

By Don Babwin and Sophia Tareen, Associated Press

Chicago police have released hundreds of files from the investigation into Jussie Smollett’s claim he was attacked by two men – including video footage of the Empire actor wearing a thin white rope wrapped around his neck.

The footage from a body camera worn by an officer who responded to allegations of a racist and homophobic attack by two large men on January 29 has blurred out the actor’s face because he was considered a victim at that point, police said.

But footage shows the officers walking into the apartment, where they encounter the actor wearing the rope – which Smollett told detectives was a noose – before one asked him: “Do you want to take it off or anything?”

“Yeah,” said Smollett, before unwinding the white rope, loosening it and placing it on the kitchen counter.

In all, police released nearly 1,200 different individual files on Monday, including thousands of pages of documents, arrest reports and handwritten notes from police.

Added up, there was more than 90 hours of video, much of it hour after hour of CCTV cameras high above city streets.

As the hunt for the two men Smollett said attacked him continued for weeks, some in the city started to wonder if the whole thing was a hoax.

And those suspicions made it into the documents, with a February 25 email from a sergeant saying that she had received a tip from a caller whose name is redacted.

“He has a friend close to the inner circle of the subject. The friend shared that the entire event was orchestrated by (redacted),” it read.

The footage itself illustrates the growing scepticism within the police department, starting with the fact that much of it was retrieved from surveillance cameras that officers collected as they tried to piece together the route that two brothers took across the city to the spot where the incident was alleged to have happened.

There is also video of officers handcuffing the two brothers — who have admitted to their role in the staged attack — on the tarmac at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport when they returned on a flight from Nigeria.

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The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped all charges against Smollett (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

The release of documents and video was not expected to shed much new light on what happened — largely because so much information has already been made public.

In February, police laid out in detail how investigators came to conclude that the incident was not a hate crime as Smollett had claimed but a carefully staged hoax directed by the actor himself to promote his career.

Hundreds of documents were also released by police after the office of Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx announced it was dropping all the charges against Smollett.

Police said when Smollett was charged that there was no footage of the actual staged attack because the camera they said the actor hoped would capture the incident was, unbeknown to him, not working.

Among the video released is footage of Smollett’s creative director Frank Gaston meeting officers in the lobby of a Chicago apartment building and giving them a short synopsis of the evening as they take the lift to the actor’s flat.

“They put a makeshift, what do you call that thing, a noose around his (expletive) neck,” he tells officers.

PA Media

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