New Documents in Jussie Smollett Case Reveal Police Told Deal in Works a Month Before Charges Dropped

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Jussie Smollett after his court appearance at Leighton Courthouse on March 26, 2019 in Chicago.

New documents on the Jussie Smollett case released Thursday (May 30) show that prosecutors told Chicago police detectives that a possible deal with the Empire actor was in the works a month before charges against him were dropped.

The approximately 460-pages of new documents show detectives investigating Smollett’s claim he was the victim of a hate crime were told by Cook County prosecutors a deal with Smollett could include a $10,000 fine and community service. The detectives did not pass the information to superiors.

“They didn’t pass it on because they didn’t know it (the case) was going to be handled the way it was,” said Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Smollett was charged with 16 counts alleging he lied to police when reporting he’d been the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in January. Police contend the black and openly gay actor staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Prosecutors dropped charges on March 26 without Smollett admitting guilt.

Then Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Superintendent Eddie Johnson expressed outrage over the prosecutors’ decision.

In the documents released Thursday, detectives note the Chicago Police Department was informed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office on Feb. 28 that they could no longer investigate the crime. Smollett was indicted on March 7. The lead investigators in the case met with Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier, who informed detectives “that she felt the case would be settled with Smollett paying the city of Chicago $10,000 in restitution and doing community service.”

The detectives closed the case at that point because an arrest was made and the alleged offender was being prosecuted, according to Guglielmi. Telephone calls to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office weren’t immediately returned Thursday.

It was the attorneys for Smollett who announced charges alleging he lied to police about attack had been dropped. At the time, Johnson said he learned of the deal prosecutors made with Smollett when the deal was announced by lawyers, adding he didn’t think justice was being served. However, he didn’t directly criticize prosecutors.

“My job as a police officer is to investigate an incident, gather evidence, gather the facts and present them to the state’s attorney,” Johnson said. “That’s what we did. I stand behind the detectives’ investigation.” The Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association said the dismissal of the charges was “an affront to prosecutors across the state” as well as police, victims of hate crimes and the county as a whole.

The city of Chicago is seeking $130,000 from Smollett to cover the costs of the investigation into his reported beating. The city claims about two dozen detectives and officers investigated the entertainer’s report that he was attacked, resulting in a “substantial number of overtime hours.”

According to CNN, in the new docs, Smollett's attorney, Tina Glandian, noted two witnesses who said they saw at least one white man near the spot where Smollett claimed he was attacked. One woman who was walking her dog at 12:30 a.m. said she saw a white man who appeared to have a rope under his jacket, telling detectives he looked away when she made eye contact with him. Another alleged witness, a security guard at a hotel, said they saw a white man wearing a ski mask at 2 a.m., around the time of the alleged incident. The guard also said another man ran by, pointing at the man in the mask.

"This is the first time we are seeing any of this," Glandian wrote in an email. As the investigation went on, police asked Smollett if the two brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, initially implicated in the attack -- who were reportedly paid $3,500 to stage the incident -- could be perpetrators. According to police documents, he said no, because they were "black as sin." Smollett told police he was attacked by two white men and when questioned  two weeks later about the brothers he said he had no issues with them.

"They are straight so we don't have any problems with women or men," he said. "They did not owe me any money, I don't owe them any money. We have a good relationship." The two brothers later confessed to their involvement in the alleged plot, with one saying he filled a hot sauce bottle with bleach and poured it on Smollett; police said the container was found at the scene of the alleged attack. 

TMZ also reported that the docs revealed that a search of the Osundairo brothers' house turned up a GunVault with a cache of weapons, including a 9MM semi-automatic pistol, 9MM caliber magazine with live rounds, boxes labeled Remington 22 rounds and a box labeled as shotgun shells

Police have also previously alleged that text messages show Smollett bought drugs from one of the brothers, with the new documents showing that those drugs included marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine. Smollett was initially written out of the final two episodes of the just-completed season of Empire and is not slated to return for the upcoming final season.