Jussie Smollett arrives at a Chicago courthouse for a hearing in March.
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Just over two months after prosecutors dropped the charges against Jussie Smollett, a controversial move that angered Chicago’s police department, that department has released hundreds of pages of records pertaining to the comprehensive case investigators had developed against the Empire actor.
The document dump Thursday, which had been set in motion with a court order last week, offers a fuller depiction of the twisting path that led from Smollett’s report of a hate crime to his arrest for allegedly faking that report. Among the new details that came to light with the release is the fact that Smollett has an arrest record — a previous arrest and conviction — though the document does not clarify for what, exactly.
The actor’s legal team did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment Thursday.
In general, though, the heap of booking materials, arrest reports, and other official forms reveal little that hasn’t already been noted in media coverage or public comments from Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. What they do offer is a vivid portrait of what law enforcement saw and heard in their initial response — and how they used those details, together with footage from local security cameras and conversations with the Uber driver who drove the two brothers allegedly involved in the fake attack, to piece together their final conclusion.
You can read all of those documents for yourself, if you’d like, by scrolling to the bottom of this post or by clicking here.
The files were not always destined for the light of day. In late March, when the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue the 16-count grand jury indictment against Smollett, the records were placed under seal in an unusual move. It was only after a legal push by a group of media companies, NPR and member station WBEZ included, successfully challenged that order last week that the Chicago Police Department was allowed to release the documents.
As evidenced by the legal wrangling, Thursday’s release also has significance beyond the information it offers readers: It is a new marker in the dissension that’s been brewing between Chicago’s authorities over the case.
Superintendent Johnson, for one, made no secret of his displeasure with the decision by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to drop the case, and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel decried the move as a “whitewash of justice.” Within a couple of weeks, the City of Chicago took matters into its own hands, filing a civil complaint against Smollett that demanded that he reimburse local authorities for “the cost of overtime spent investigating his false police report.”
That price tag: more than $130,000.
This is not the end of the document release either. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday that officers plan to roll out another 300-plus pages of redacted materials next week, “including hand written detective notes, subpoena records and ancillary material.”
And there will be still another release after that.
“The final release will be pertinent video files that require a heavy amount of digital redaction for things like license plates of unrelated vehicles and the blurring of faces of individuals not involved in the criminal investigation. We hope to have that completed by the week after next.”
Read the police documents
Smollett Batch2 by on Scribd
Singer R. Kelly, appearing at a court hearing in Chicago on May 7.
E. Jason Wambsgans/Pool/Getty Images
E. Jason Wambsgans/Pool/Getty Images
On Thursday, prosecutors in Cook County, Ill., filed 11 more felony charges of sexual assault and sexual abuse against R&B singer R. Kelly. They include four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, two counts of criminal sexual assault by force, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against an alleged victim between the ages of 13 and 16.
If convicted of the aggravated criminal sexual assault charges, Kelly faces six to 30 years of a mandatory sentence on each of those four charges. These are more serious charges than the ones that Cook County levied against Kelly in February.
However, it is unclear if the charges filed Thursday involve a newly discovered victim. The new filing refers to the alleged victim by the initials “J.P.”, which are the same as one of the alleged victims named in the February indictment.
The time period chronicled in the Thursday indictment is January 2010; the three previous indictment charges related to “J.P.” span May 2009 to Jan. 31, 2010. In the Thursday indictment, which member station WBEZ has posted in full, Kelly is accused of forcing oral and vaginal penetration on “J.P.,” transmitting semen onto her body, using violence or threats against her, and endangering her life.
The February indictment includes three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse related to “J.P.” It alleges oral and vaginal penetration of “J.P.” as well as the transmission of semen on her body, but not the use of violence or threats, or of endangering her life.
In the past, both Kelly and his attorney Steve Greenberg have denied all allegations, which now span 25 years.
On Thursday, Greenberg did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment. However, he did tweet an assertion:
“R. Kelly was NOT charged with a new case. He was recharged in an existing case, same alleged victim and time (a decade ago). It changes nothing”
In a follow-up tweet, Greenberg wrote:
“These are the same conduct, just charged differently, same alleged victim, same time frame, same facts. We expect the same results.”
Sen. Thad Cochran, shown here in 2013, used seniority to steer billions of dollars to his home state of Mississippi.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Thad Cochran, the Republican senator from Mississippi who served for some four decades, has died at the age of 81, his successor, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, said on Thursday.
Cochran used his considerable influence, especially while serving as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to direct billions of dollars to Mississippi.
“Mississippi has suffered a tremendous loss today,” Hyde-Smith, a fellow Republican, said in a statement. “He treated everyone with distinction, and had a caring and concerned heart for the constituents and the state he so dearly loved.”
Cochran announced last year that he was resigning because of poor health. When he was first elected to the Senate, in 1978, he was the first Republican to hold statewide office in Mississippi in more than 100 years, as NPR’s Jessica Taylor reported, and was known to take positions that crossed the aisle.
After his death, President Trump called him a “real Senator with incredible values” who “never let our Country (or me) down!”
Cochran headed the powerful Appropriations Committee in the mid-2000s and then gained the position again in 2014. He used his influence to marshal billions of dollars for Hurricane Katrina recovery.
As NPR has reported, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has written that “few if any senators were of a mind to question what he wanted to do for the states hit by Katrina. … [Cochran] is a quiet, polite gentleman, but he is tough as nails.”
“As Appropriations Chairman, he wielded great influence with abundant grace,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Thursday. Cochran, he said, “took great pride in keeping promises to the people he represented — ensuring veterans’ access to health care, introducing educational opportunities, and continuing a record of stellar constituent service for every single Mississippian.”
“Cochran was as effective a lawmaker as ever served in Congress, but he typically toiled away behind the scenes,” The Clarion-Ledger reported. For example, he rarely appeared on political talk shows.
But he grabbed national headlines when he was challenged inside his own party for his Senate seat by a Tea Party candidate in 2014. In that acrimonious race, he ultimately won a runoff against state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
During the race, a supporter of McDaniel’s published video of Cochran’s wife, Rose, in a nursing home, afflicted with dementia. The person who published the video was eventually sentenced to five years in prison, according to The Associated Press.
Rose Cochran died in 2014, and Cochran married his aide Kay Webber the following year.
Before he was elected to the Senate, Cochran also served three terms in the House of Representatives. He was nicknamed “Gentleman Thad” and known for playing the piano in his office.
“One of my most cherished moments, which I will hold in my heart forever, is playing God Bless America on the piano while he sang it in his Senate office on his last day there,” said Hyde-Smith.