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Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Singer R. Kelly was charged Friday with 10 counts of felony criminal sexual abuse involving four minors, according to the Cook County Prosecutor's Office.

Three of the four victims were younger than 17 at the time of the alleged incidents, according to prosecutors.

A bond hearing will be held on Saturday, according to the State Attorney's Office.

R. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is also facing investigations from at least three different federal law enforcement agencies including at least one examining his alleged relationships with underage girls and whether they were trafficked, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.

The investigations, by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and the IRS, have opened in the six weeks since Lifetime aired Surviving R. Kelly, a documentary series about the decades’ worth of misconduct allegations against the singer.

The agencies all declined to comment citing policies of not confirming or denying the existence of investigations.

HSI is looking at potential crimes involving sex trafficking and child exploitation. The existence of the investigations was first reported by The New Yorker.

On Thursday, two more women came forward to say R. Kelly preyed on them. They appeared in New York with their attorney, Gloria Allred, who said Latresa Scaff and Rochelle Washington planned to speak with federal prosecutors.

R. Kelly’s attorney has previously said his client never intentionally had sex with an underage girl, nor mistreated anyone or held anyone against her will. The attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Embattled actor Jussie Smollett will not appear in the final two episodes of Empire this season in the wake of the criminal charges he's facing for allegedly falsifying claims of a hate crime.

Producers of the Fox show Empire said that Smollett's character will be removed from the final two episodes of the show.

The show's creators and executive producers Producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer released a joint statement confirming the news.

"The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season," the joint statement reads.

This update comes a day after Smollett entered a not guilty plea to felony charges for allegedly staging an attack. He returned to the Chicago set of the show after appearing in court Thursday, and insisted to his castmates that he didn't make up the story, a source familiar with the meeting told ABC News.

The actor also filmed scenes for the show on Thursday, according to the source, but the news that producers will not be including his character in the season's final two episodes suggests that any scenes he did film may not be used.

The announcement of his removal from the season's final two episodes comes more than a week after Strong, one of the show's co-creators, tweeted that there was no chance that the actor would be written off. The tweet came on Feb. 14, days before Smollett was charged.

"There is 0% truth that @JussieSmollett was going to be written off of Empire. This rumor is totally false. He is the third lead and one of the most beloved characters on the show. Writing him off the show has NEVER even been discussed," Strong tweeted at the time.

On Thursday, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct and a Chicago judge set Smollett's bond at $100,000 and ordered the actor to surrender his passport.

The ruling followed a remarkable news conference during the police department's superintendent blasted the actor and accused him of staging an elaborate hoax that amounted to a "publicity stunt ... to promote his career."

The weeks-long investigation into the alleged hate crime attack –- an alarming account that sizzled with a spectrum of hot button issues ranging from race, sexuality and politics to crime and celebrity -- riveted and distressed a deeply-divided nation.

Standing before Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke, Jr., Smollett appeared to remain steadfast in his refutation of the felony charge against him. As he did with his fellow actors after the hearing, Smollett has repeatedly insisted that the attack was real and that he was merely a victim, not a perpetrator.

If convicted of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false report, the actor faces up to three years in prison.

When first assistant state attorney Risa Lanier told Lyke that the actor had picked up two brothers who authorities say carried out the staged attack on him at his direction and showed them the location of where he wanted to be attacked, Smollett shook his head in disagreement.

When Lyke told Smollett that the allegations, if true, are "utterly outrageous," the actor nodded his head in agreement -- doing so again when Lyke said the noose detail would be the most despicable part of the alleged scheme.

The judge also ordered pre-trial monitoring of the actor, and ordered him to stay away from the two brothers he allegedly conspired with to stage the hoax attack, according to police.

Smollett's next court appearance is scheduled for March 14.

The tense courtroom appearance followed on the heels of a morning press conference at which a visibly angry Eddie Johnson, Chicago's police superintendent, castigated the actor for betraying his race and his city with such an incendiary false claim.

"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," a visibly angry Johnson said. “I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? ... How can an individual who's been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?"

Johnson charged that Smollett, an actor on the hit show 'Empire' who has consistently denied any role in staging the alleged attack, orchestrated it because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."

Smollett's salary on the show is in the range of $100,000 per episode, according to a source familiar with his contract.

In addition to staging the attack, officials said, Smollett also sent himself a hate-filled letter to the Fox studio where the hit show is filmed.

Smollett turned himself in at 5:15 a.m. local time and made a statement to police before being taken into custody. His lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, were not present at the time but they released a statement the night before.

"Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."

Thursday evening, the attorneys released a statement criticizing law enforcement's handling of the case.

"Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. 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," the statement read. "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."

Backlash


Police add that Smollett gave no statement to police after turning himself in and that his lawyers had reached out to them Wednesday night to discuss his surrender. Smollett wanted to turn himself in near midnight, but authorities suggested he come in at 5 a.m. instead, to avoid spending the night in jail. Smollett arrived early Thursday morning accompanied by a female lawyer and an entourage of five or six people.

Smollett was silent as he went through the motions of being booked and processed.

By late morning on Thursday, the backlash against the actor began at the top, with an angry tweet from the President of the United States.

".@JussieSmollett - what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA" President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet after the press conference.

In an earlier interview with ABC News's Robin Roberts, Smollett was asked why he thought he was targeted and he replied that he is a strident critic of the Trump administration.

“I come really really hard against 45," he said, referring to Trump, the 45th U.S. president. "I come really really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”

'I'm offended'


During a press briefing Thursday morning, Chicago law enforcement officials said that Chicago police detectives interviewed more than 100 people and reviewed dozens of police cameras trying to get to the bottom of Smollett's claims.

Johnson, a well-regarded and popular big city police chief and Chicago native, appeared genuinely aggrieved as he described how, he said, Smollett took advantage of the pain of racism to advance his career.

"Why would anyone use the symbol of a noose" to further his "own public profile," Johnson wondered aloud.

"I'm offended by what happened and I'm angry," Johnson continued. "This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t own and certainly didn’t deserve."

Johnson, who oversees one of the nation's largest police departments in one of its most violent cities, seemed disheartened by all the attention paid to the Smollett affair.

“The accusation within this phony attack received national attention for weeks,” Johnson told reporters during a press conference. “Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor."

"When you get the opportunity," he said with a mixture of derision and frustration, "the shooting victims and their families? Give them the same amount of attention."

After the press briefing, 20th Century Fox, the station that airs Empire, released a statement which read, "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."

'Self-inflicted' wounds


Smollett told police he was attacked by two masked men near his apartment in Chicago. The two men, Smollett initially said, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him as a rope was wrapped around his neck and a chemical compound was poured on him. The alleged assailants yelled "MAGA country," a reference to President Donald Trump's "Make American Great Again" slogan, police were told.

In his Good Morning America interview with Roberts, Smollett said he was heartbroken when he found out that people questioned his story.

Asked why he would leave the rope draped around his neck until police arrived because he "wanted them to see."

"I was looking at myself, just like checking myself out," he told Roberts. "I saw the bruise on my neck, you know, like the little -- the rope burn around my neck. So when the police came I kept the clothes on, I kept the rope on me. ... I mean, it wasn't, like, wrapped around. But, yeah, it was around because I wanted them to see."

Asked why he waited until the second interview to tell police that the assailants yelled “MAGA country” at him during the attack, Smollett seemed to take offense at the insinuation.

"For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing," Smollett said on ABC News. "I didn't need to add anything like that. They called me a f----, they called me a n----. There's no which way you cut it."

'Chicago trusted this young man'


Johnson said on Thursday that Smollett's seeming injuries from the incident also appeared to be phony.

“The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack where they -- they punched him a little bit, but as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self-inflicted."

Police identified and questioned two "persons of interest" captured on surveillance video near the scene around the time of the alleged attack. The men, who are brothers, were arrested on Feb. 13 but then released without charges, with police saying they were no longer considered suspects.

While being questioned by investigators, the brothers claimed that Smollett paid them to help orchestrate and stage the crime after he became upset that a letter threatening him, sent Jan. 22 to the Fox studio where Empire is filmed, did not get enough attention, sources told ABC News.

On Wednesday, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false crime report. By that evening, police officially had classified the actor as a suspect in the ongoing investigation. Detectives subsequently presented evidence to a Cook County grand jury.

"That was a pretty hateful allegation, and it really put a terrible look on Chicago," Guglielmi told ABC Chicago station WLS in a telephone interview Thursday morning. "Chicago trusted this young man. We loved Empire, and we took this very seriously that something this hateful could happen in our city."

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imaginima/iStock(PERRIS, Calif.) -- David and Louise Turpin, the California parents accused of torturing and holding captive most of their 13 children, pleaded guilty Friday to 14 counts against them, prosecutors said.

David and Louise Turpin, who were arrested in January 2018, pleaded guilty to one count of torture and one count of dependent abuse as well as multiple counts of false imprisonment, child endangerment and adult abuse.

Each will serve an indeterminate sentence of 25 years to life, meaning they'll be eligible to begin having parole hearings after the minimum time has elapsed, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at a Friday news conference.

"Unless a parole board at some point... decides they should be released, they will serve the rest of their life in prison," Hestrin said.

Had the case gone to trial, the victims likely would have been called to testify, Hestrin said.

The seven adult children are "relieved" they won't face the possibility of testifying, Jack Osborn, a lawyer who represents the adult Turpin children, told ABC News on Friday. The victims didn't want to lose their privacy or relive the "trauma" in such a public setting, he explained.

Hestrin called the Turpins' case "among the worst, most aggravated child abuse cases that I have ever seen."

The Turpins were accused of abusing 12 of their 13 children, including in some cases allegedly shackling them and beating them routinely, prosecutors said.

They were arrested after one child -- a 17-year-old girl -- escaped the home and called 911.

That Turpin daughter told the dispatcher that she and her siblings lived in filth and that she hadn't bathed in nearly a year, according to testimony in court in June. She said she had last seen a doctor in 2013 and had never been to a dentist in her life.

When rescued, all the children except for the youngest, a toddler, were severely malnourished, prosecutors said.

The eldest victim -- a 29-year-old woman -- weighed only 82 pounds.

The adult children are healthy, Osborn said Friday, and have been finishing their educations and enjoying everyday life, from movies to hikes.

The children may choose to speak at their parents' sentencing, Hestrin said. Sentencing has been set for April 19.

Both Louise Turpin's attorney and the public defender's office representing David Turpin declined to comment on Friday.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As Las Vegas and Los Angeles area residents enjoy rare snow days, a storm is on the move, targeting the Northeast and South for the weekend.

Snowfall struck the Las Vegas Strip on Thursday -- the most snow the city has seen in more than a decade. Las Vegas schools are closed Friday, giving residents a rare snow day.

Flagstaff, Ariz., had its snowiest day in the city's history with 35.9 inches.

Even the Los Angeles area reported snow showers.

With the storm on the move, here's the latest forecast:


The storm is centered over the Southwest Friday morning, bringing rain and snow to Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

By Friday night the storm will move into the eastern Rockies bringing snow to Denver.

At the same time, a frontal system ahead of the storm will bring heavy rain to the South, from Arkansas to Tennessee.

The storm will move east on Saturday, bringing heavy snow from Kansas to Michigan.

In the South, severe storms are forecast to bring heavy rain, damaging winds, large hail and even a few tornadoes. Flash flooding is also a threat.

From Saturday night into Sunday morning the storm will barrel into the Northeast, bringing heavy rain to the Interstate 95 corridor from Virginia to Massachusetts. Heavy snow is expected for northern New England.

But the heaviest rain will fall from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Memphis, Tennessee, and into western Virginia. Four inches or more of rain is possible and flash flooding is expected.

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Woodland Park Police Department(FOUNTAIN, Colo.) -- Colorado authorities are planning to begin the task Tuesday morning of digging through a landfill for Kelsey Berreth's remains and other possible evidence in the missing mom's case, sources told ABC News.

The search of the Midway landfill near Fountain, Colorado, could last several months, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. Investigators have been focusing their attention on the landfill since at least January, when officials from Waste Management told ABC News that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation had contacted them "regarding a potential search at Midway Landfill and we are cooperating fully."

Berreth, a 29-year-old pilot, was last seen entering a Safeway near her home in Woodland Park, Colorado, on Thanksgiving Day, according to surveillance footage from the store. The footage showed her entering with her 1-year-old daughter in a car seat and taking a shopping cart. It was the last confirmed sighting of her.

Berreth's mother reported her missing on Dec. 2, police said. Her body has never been found, but investigators testified in a Teller County courtroom on Tuesday that they believe Berreth's fiancé, Patrick Frazee, burned her body on his property in Florissant, Colorado.

During Frazee's preliminary hearing, a law enforcement witness said that Frazee told his mistress he "scooped Berreth's remains up and was going to take them to the dump or to take them to the river."

Krystal Lee Kenney, a former nurse from Idaho, told investigators that she and Frazee burned a black plastic container in a horse trough on Frazee's land days after Berreth was killed.

Kenney, who has pleaded guilty to transporting the 29-year-old flight instructor's cellphone from Colorado to Idaho on Nov. 25, told investigators that she never saw a body in the fire, but described a "lump" after the plastic melted away, which she believed to be Berreth's remains.

"I learned Patrick Frazee had committed a homicide on approximately Nov. 22, 2018, in Teller County," Kenney said in a court statement earlier this month. "I knew that law enforcement would be investigating that crime. I moved the victim’s cellphone with an intent to impair the phone’s availability in the investigation. I had no right or authority to move the victim’s cellphone that occurred between Nov. 24 and Nov. 25, 2018, in Teller County.”

According to the arrest affidavit released Wednesday, "Frazee put the black tote in a trough on his residence along with items from Berreth's residence; the bat used to kill Berreth, and burned it to dispose of evidence....the contents of Berreth's purse were burned at the same time as her body. There was a mace container, a pair of earrings and Berreth's identification card. These items were all burned, with the exception of Berreth's cell phone."

Frazee, 32, is charged with two counts of murder and three counts of solicitation to commit murder in his fiancee’s death. Teller County prosecutors filed additional charges prior to the preliminary hearing, including tampering with a dead body and two sentence enhancers.

The couple's daughter, Kaylee, is in temporary custody of Kelsey's parents.

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Pasco Sheriff's Office(PORT RICHEY, Fla.) -- A Florida mayor, who was accused of practicing medicine without a license, was arrested on Thursday after he allegedly fired shots at deputies who were attempting to serve a search warrant, according to police.

Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted homicide after he allegedly shot at two sheriff's deputies at his home in central Florida, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.

Massad, 68, also faces charges of practicing medicine without a license. There were no injuries reported and the deputies did not return fire, according to the sheriff's office.

Massad is a known drug user with a history of violence, said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco. He was elected mayor of Port Richey, which is located about 40 miles north of Tampa, in 2015.

"We knew this was going to be a very dangerous situation, which it did turn out to be," Nocco said at a press conference Thursday. "Our deputies did an unbelievable job. Those deputies were professional, their training kicked in and they did a great job."

"He's lucky he's not dead," he added.

Massad, who was recently arrested for a domestic violence incident, had multiple weapons at his home and told deputies that he refused to go back to jail, according to Nocco.

"This was a violent individual who had made the statement [saying] he wasn't going back to jail," Nocco said. "We did everything we could to make it a peaceful resolution. He's the one who made the decision to shoot at us."

Massad was a licensed doctor from 1977 until 1992, when he voluntarily surrendered his license after the Board of Medicine alleged his errors in care led to a 3-year-old patient’s death in 1990, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Agents launched an investigation after receiving reports that Massad had been seeing patients at his home for medical treatment, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a statement.

"FDLE agents received information from the Port Richey Police Department that Massad, whose medical license was relinquished in 1992 in place of revocation, was still practicing medicine," the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. "He had performed medical procedures at his residence with one procedure requiring additional hospital treatment for the patient."

The Port Richey mayor's office did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

It's unclear if Massad has retained an attorney.

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WABC-TV(NEW YORK) -- An Uber driver in Queens was the luckiest guy in New York City on Thursday.

Mahboob Lodhi, who said he had just gotten off a shift working for the car-share company, was cruising through Woodside in the city's largest borough when a large plank fell from elevated subway tracks above him and speared right through his windshield.

Lodhi missed disaster by a foot or two.

"Boom. I'm just shocked," Lodhi told New York ABC station WABC-TV about his thoughts in the moment. "I'm nervous and then after a couple minutes, nothing."

No one was injured in the vehicle or on the street, though the wooden plank did glance off Lodhi's arm and glass sprayed onto him.

Photos from after the incident show the piece of wood fully punctured the windshield and reached all the way to the passenger seat.

Several other planks also fell to the street.

"A track from the 7 train just crashed down upon a driving car around 65th Street in Woodside, piercing through the windshield," New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer tweeted. "These photos are horrifying!"

Van Bramer also called for an investigation and said "someone could have been killed."

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates New York City's subways, is facing billions of dollars in debt. The agency's total outstanding debt as of Jan. 14 was slightly over $40 billion.

About Thursday's incident, the MTA said in a statement to WABC, "We take this incident extremely seriously, are conducting a full investigation into what happened, have personnel ensuring the rest of the area is safe, and are relieved that no one was injured."

Workers also spent Thursday evening inspecting the elevated portion of the 7 line for any other possible similarities.

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BlakeDavidTaylor/iStock(HUMBLE, Texas) -- A Texas middle school student was arrested this week for allegedly bringing a large blade and a so-called "hit list" to school, administrators said.

Karl Koehler, principal of the Atascocita Middle School in Humble, Texas, said the student was caught with an 8-inch blade on Wednesday that was large enough to cut a tree branch.

The unidentified student was arrested and charged with possession of a prohibited weapon, a third-degree felony, Koehler said.

Officials at Atascocita Middle School, located about 20 miles north of Houston, sent a letter home to parents on Wednesday afternoon explaining the situation.

"Today, a student made a poor choice and brought a saw blade to school," the letter said. "The blade was about 8 inches and is the type of tool one uses to cut a tree branch. The student also had written a hit list containing a few students’ names."

School officials said they made the discovery after receiving a tip about a potential safety concern.

"The moment that we received a tip about a potential safety concern, we took immediate action by launching an investigation," the letter said. "We involved Humble ISD [Independent School District] Police, who gathered information and presented it to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office."

There were no injuries reported and the school said it planned to have personal conversations with the parents of students whose names were listed, according to the letter.

The Humble Independent School District thanked school officials for being proactive and stopping a potential tragedy.

"We have a proactive culture on campus that encourages people to share information," the district said in a statement. "The system worked. We received a tip. We took immediate action by launching an investigation."

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Chicago Police Dept.(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago judge set Jesse Smollett's bond at $100,000 on Thursday and ordered him to surrender his passport, hours after a remarkable Chicago Police Department press conference in which Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted the 'Empire' star, saying that Smollett's alleged staging of a hoax attack was a "publicity stunt...to promote his career."

Standing before Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke, Jr., Smollett appeared to remain steadfast in his refutation of the charge against him. He has repeatedly insisted that the attack was real and that he was merely a victim, not a perpetrator.

When first assistant state attorney Risa Lanier told Lyke that the actor had picked up two brothers who authorities say carried out the staged attack on him at his direction and showed them the location of where he wanted to be attacked, Smollett shook his head in disagreement.

When Lyke told Smollett that the allegations, if true, are "utterly outrageous," the actor nodded his head in agreement -- doing so again when Lyke said the noose detail would be the most despicable part of the alleged scheme.

The judge also ordered pre-trial monitoring of the actor, and ordered him to stay away from the two brothers he allegedly conspired with to stage the hoax attack, according to police.

The tense courtroom appearance followed on the heels of a morning press conference at which a visibly angry Johnson castigated the actor for betraying his race and his city with such an incendiary false claim.

"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," a visibly angry Johnson said. “I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? ... How can an individual who's been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?"

Johnson charged that Smollett, an actor on the hit show 'Empire' who has consistently denied any role in staging the alleged attack, orchestrated it because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."

In addition to staging the attack, officials said, Smollett also sent himself a hate-filled letter to the Fox studio where the hit show is filmed.

Smollett turned himself in at 5:15 a.m. local time and made a statement to police before being taken into custody. His lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, were not present at the time but they released a statement the night before.

"Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."

Backlash

Police add that Smollett gave no statement to police after turning himself in and that his lawyers had reached out to them Wednesday night to discuss his surrender. Smollett wanted to turn himself in near midnight, but authorities suggested he come in at 5 a.m. instead, to avoid spending the night in jail. Smollett arrived early Thursday morning accompanied by a female lawyer and an entourage of five or six people.

Smollett was silent as he went through the motions of being booked and processed.

By late morning on Thursday, the backlash against the actor began at the top, with an angry tweet from the President of the United States.

".@JussieSmollett - what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA" President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet after the press conference.

In an earlier interview with ABC News, Smollett was asked why he thought he was targeted and he replied that he is a strident critic of the Trump administration.

“I come really really hard against 45," he said. referring to Trump, the 45th U.S. president. "I come really really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”

'I'm offended'

During a press briefing later Thursday morning, Chicago law enforcement officials said that Chicago police detectives interviewed more than 100 people and reviewed dozens of police cameras trying to get to the bottom of Smollett's claims.

Johnson, a well-regarded and popular big city police chief and Chicago native, appeared genuinely aggrieved as he described how, he said, Smollett took advantage of the pain of racism to advance his career.

"Why would anyone use the symbol of a noose" to further his "own public profile," Johnson wondered aloud.

"I'm offended by what happened and I'm angry," Johnson continued. "This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t own and certainly didn’t deserve."

Johnson, who oversees one of the nation's largest police departments in one of its most violent cities, seemed disheartened by all the attention paid to the Smollett affair.

“The accusation within this phony attack received national attention for weeks,” Johnson told reporters during a press conference. “Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor."

"When you get the opportunity," he said with a mixture of derision and frustration, "the shooting victims and their families? Give them the same amount of attention."

 After the press briefing, 20th Century Fox, the station that airs "Empire," released a statement which read, "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."

'Self-inflicted' wounds

Smollett told police he was attacked by two masked men near his apartment in Chicago. The two men, Smollett initially said, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him as a rope was wrapped around his neck and a chemical compound was poured on him. The alleged assailants yelled "MAGA country," a reference to President Donald Trump's "Make American Great Again" slogan, police were told.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts, Smollett said he was heartbroken when he found out that people questioned his story.

Asked why he would leave the rope draped around his neck until police arrived because he "wanted them to see."

"I was looking at myself, just like checking myself out," he told Roberts. "I saw the bruise on my neck, you know, like the little -- the rope burn around my neck. So when the police came I kept the clothes on, I kept the rope on me. ... I mean, it wasn't, like, wrapped around. But, yeah, it was around because I wanted them to see."

Asked why he wait until the second interview to tell police that the assailants yelled “MAGA country” at him during the attack, Smollett seemed to take offense at the insinuation.

"For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing," Smollett said on ABC News. "I didn't need to add anything like that. They called me a f----, they called me a n----. There's no which way you cut it."

'Chicago trusted this young man'


Johnson said on Thursday that Smollett's seeming injuries from the incident also appeared to be phony.

“The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack where they -- they punched him a little bit, but as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self-inflicted."

Police identified and questioned two "persons of interest" captured on surveillance video near the scene around the time of the alleged attack. The men, who are brothers, were arrested on Feb. 13 but then released without charges, with police saying they were no longer considered suspects.

While being questioned by investigators, the brothers claimed that Smollett paid them to help orchestrate and stage the crime after he became upset that a letter threatening him, sent Jan. 22 to the Fox studio where "Empire" is filmed, did not get enough attention, sources told ABC News.

On Wednesday, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false crime report. By that evening, police officially had classified the actor as a suspect in the ongoing investigation. Detectives subsequently presented evidence to a Cook County grand jury.

"That was a pretty hateful allegation, and it really put a terrible look on Chicago," Guglielmi told ABC Chicago station WLS in a telephone interview Thursday morning. "Chicago trusted this young man. We loved 'Empire,' and we took this very seriously that something this hateful could happen in our city."

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Tamilisa Miner/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A man allegedly caught researching acts of domestic terrorism and amassing more than a dozen firearms will spend at least two weeks in federal custody, a Maryland federal judge decided on Thursday.

U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, was arrested on charges of firearm and drug possession, but Judge Charles Day said that Hasson’s internet search history, as well as previous letters and emails he had allegedly written, were enough to warrant him a danger to the community.

Speaking on behalf of the prosecution, Jennifer Sykes said that the gun and drug possession charges were “just the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the extent of Hasson’s alleged crimes, indicating that they may attempt to charge him as a domestic terrorist allegedly planning to launch a major attack.

According to court documents filed Tuesday, Hasson was described as someone who had "espoused extremist views for years". In a draft email from June 2017 he allegedly wrote, "I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth. I think a plague would be most successful but how do I acquire the needed/ Spanish flu, botulism, anthrax not sure yet but will find something."

He was found to have been studying the writings of previous domestic terrorists and was particularly interested in that of Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011, prosecutors alleged.

The defendant also allegedly compiled a list of prominent Democratic lawmakers as well as journalists from CNN and MSNBC. Names on that list include presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris, as well as MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and CNN's Van Jones.

The documents further showed that since 2017 Hassan had compiled 15 weapons, some of which had the capacity for extra magazines, and over a thousand rounds of ammunition. The weapons were found in his home in Silver Spring, which prosecutors say he had been leasing since 2016. Investigators also found over 30 bottles of HGH, human growth hormone, which followed Breivik’s recommendations to bulk up in order to maximize one’s physical strength during an attack.

At the time of his arrest, Hasson was serving in the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and had served in that position since 2016. Hasson also served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 to 1993 and spent two additional years in the mid-nineties in the National Guard, records showed.

Sykes also revealed that there was video showing Hasson taking those controlled substances while at work.

Hasson’s attorney, Julie Stelzig, sought to characterize the prosecution’s argument as overblown, calling it "histrionic."

"These are very serious words," Stelzig said of the prosecution’s claims that Hasson intended to murder innocent civilians. "Even more extraordinary was the lack of actual substance backing up the assertions."

Stelzig also accused the government of submitting the court filing "in order to bring enormous media attention to the case" and convince the judge that Hasson should be detained and not released.

The defense noted that the charges Hasson was actually facing – possession of a firearm as either an addict or an unlawful user of a controlled substance, and a misdemeanor possession of the synthetic opioid painkiller tramadol, were charges that did not carry the presumption of detention, meaning that the prosecution had the burden of convincing the judge that he deserved to be detained.

Stelzig downplayed Hasson's alleged stockpile of 15 guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, which were presented as evidence during the case.

"I can assure Your Honor that there are people in many parts of this country with whom this collection of guns would be modest at best," Stelzig said.

She told the judge Hasson's search history did not reflect that of someone intent on committing an act of terrorism, arguing that he had not gathered home addresses for any of the public officials he had listed.

"We are not yet a country that criminalizes people for their thoughts. Even their darkest thoughts," Stelzig said. "We are not yet a country that detains people for their internet searches."

Day based his decision on four factors: the circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence, some ancillary factors including his otherwise spotless record and service to the nation as a Marine veteran and member of the Coast Guard and National Guard, and the presumption of innocence relative to the government’s assertion that his internet searches show him to be a danger to the community, "which is where the government is laying its hat," he said.

The judge said both the prosecution and defense had made strong arguments but that he took issue with the defense’s suggestion that the prosecution had filed a motion for detention in order to "drum up media interest and potentially to influence this court."

"I don’t know about the former but I can assure you the second is not accurate," the judge said.

He said his ruling – that Hasson should remain in federal custody for at least 14 days – came with a "caveat" that after those fourteen days, if the prosecution has not yet charged Hasson with any of the other criminal activity they alluded to on Thursday, Hasson’s defense would be allowed to return to court and argue again for his release.

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Ildo Frazao/iStock(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- A national wave of teachers' strikes rolled into Oakland, California, Thursday where more than 3,000 public school educators hit picket lines in a fight for higher wages, smaller class sizes and better overall working conditions.

The first teacher strike in Oakland in 23 years came after two years of negotiations between the Oakland Education Association and the Oakland Unified School District failed to produce an agreement.

Teachers agreed to vacate classrooms after rejecting the latest offer from the school district on Wednesday. Bargaining is expected to resume on Friday and teachers said they are prepared to stay on strike until the district gives them a reasonable deal.

"It will take the Oakland Unified School District to listen to the community. So far we have been bargaining for two years ... and have seen very little movement from the district," Keith Brown, president of the teachers' union, told ABC San Francisco station KGO-TV on Thursday.

Schools for Oakland's 37,000 students remained opened Thursday with substitute teachers filling in for the striking educators.

"Students should attend school during the strike as regular attendance policies apply unless an official announcement is shared from the District," OUSD officials said in a statement posted on Twitter Thursday morning.

Many parents, however, kept their children out of classrooms and joined teachers on the picket line.

"As a parent, I want to teach my son to be an active participant in our society," Erica Garber, a parent who marched with her 5-year-old son on the picket line, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The cutbacks at my son's school have been dramatic. There’s no school nurse, and they’re talking about cutting the librarian."

The teachers were also getting support from Sen. Kamala Harris, who grew up in Oakland and launched her bid for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States there last month.

"Teachers invest their time and energy to educate the future of our country and they deserve our support," Harris said in a Twitter post on Thursday. "Standing in solidarity with the thousands of Oakland teachers who are striking to demand better pay and classroom conditions."

 To stem the tide of teachers exiting the Oakland Unified School District, the union is asking for a 12 percent raise over three years, smaller class sizes and more support staff, including nurses, counselors and librarians.

The school district is offering a 5 percent raise, retroactive to when the union's contract expired in July 2017.

The union is also asking for a promise from the school district not to close any schools.

The union and the school district began bargaining on a new contract in December 2016. But after 30 negotiating sessions encompassing 200 hours of bargaining, an impasse was declared on May 18, 2018. Both sides agreed to mediation but that failed to break the stalemate.

A state-appointed arbitrator assigned to look into the labor standoff submitted a fact-finding report over the weekend that said the school district can't afford to give the teachers a 12 percent pay hike over three years. The arbitrator, according to the report, recommended giving the teachers a 6 percent raise retroactive to the 2017-2018 school year and continue negotiations on future pay raises.

The arbitrator's report also showed an 18.7 percent annual teacher turnover rate in the school district.

"This is well above the state average," the report said. "Also, the retention is even worse at some high-needs schools, with West Oakland Middle School retaining only 9.1 percent of its teachers over a nine-year period."

Shannon Brandon, a science teacher in Oakland, said she and other educators are prepared to strike for as long as it takes to get a fair deal.

"We are here to send a message that things aren't OK," Brandon told KGO-TV. "And they haven't been OK for a very long time."

The Oakland teachers' job action was launched as West Virginia teachers returned to class Thursday after striking for two days over an omnibus education bill they say was retaliatory for their nine-day strike a year ago this week.

The West Virginia teachers called off their strike after the state House of Delegates voted to indefinitely table the bill, which would have established the first charter schools in the state and provided parents vouchers for private schools.

Last year's West Virginia strike ignited the wave of teachers strikes in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and most recently Los Angeles and Denver.

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Newport Beach Police(NEW YORK) -- The sister of a little girl who was strangled to death in 1973 didn't expect to see a conclusion to the mysterious cold case, she told ABC News hours after a man's arrest was announced on Wednesday.

"I never really thought that they would actually ever find the individual responsible," Cindy Borgeson, a sister of Linda O’Keefe, told ABC News. "After all this time, finding out there is a face and a name...just brings additional closure."

O’Keefe, 11, was abducted on July 6, 1973, as she walked home from summer school, the Newport Beach, California, Police Department said. Her strangled body was found the next day.

Their mother "carried that guilt the rest of her life," Borgeson said.

James Neal, 72, who lived in Southern California and worked in construction in the 1970s, was arrested this week in Colorado, where he had been living, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a Wednesday news conference.

DNA recovered from O'Keefe shortly after her death was put into the Combined DNA Index System — the law enforcement database known as CODIS — but there was no hit, said Spitzer.

However, through the genealogical data of his family members, who voluntarily submitted their DNA to genealogy databases, investigators were able to corroborate the DNA from O'Keefe's body and the DNA obtained from the suspect, according to Spitzer. The genealogical hit came in January, officials said.

"I had closure when they found her body," Borgeson said about the fateful day 46 years ago. But she added that she was thankful for the "additional closure" brought to her by the investigators who never gave up, as well as the new technology, which made it possible to process the crime scene DNA.

"I'm astonished at what they were able to accomplish," Borgeson, 64, said. "My hope is that this [case] brings hope to other families who haven't had closure yet."

O'Keefe, who was seven years younger than Borgeson, was "an old soul" with a "go with the flow" personality, Borgeson said.

While their parents did not live to see an arrest, Borgeson said, "I'm sure she [O'Keefe] and my parents are rejoicing."

"I'll get to be with them again," she added.

As for her sister's suspected killer, Borgeson said, "because of my profound faith, I've been able to forgive the individual."

"I couldn't carry that burden in my heart of hating an individual even though he committed this horrible crime," she said. "I hope that he has remorse."

Borgeson said, if she gets a chance to speak to Neal, she would "let him know that I've been praying for him."

Borgeson said she also prayed for Neal's family as his arrest was announced.

"They probably are so shocked," she said. "I'm sure they're going through a lot of grieving of their own."

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Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department(NEW YORK) -- In never-before-seen interrogation tapes, Jason Dalton, the former Uber driver who pleaded guilty to a 2016 shooting spree in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area that left six dead and two severely wounded, explained in detail how he claimed the ride-sharing app had "guided" him to kill unsuspecting residents.

During the 2016 interrogation, tapes of which ABC News' 20/20 obtained, Dalton told investigators that he'd been working for Uber for less than a week and had noticed something unusual about the mobile app.

"The minute that I logged on, to be honest with you, I don't know what happened," he is heard telling investigators in tapes. "I know you guys are going to have a hard time believing this, but it literally took over (my) mind and body."

Watch the full story on 20/20 THIS FRIDAY, Feb. 22, at 9 p.m. on ABC.


The shootings occurred on the evening of Feb. 20, 2016, as Dalton continued to transport Uber customers to their destinations.

His victims included Tiana Carruthers, 28; Richard Smith, 53, and his 17-year-old son, Tyler Smith; Mary Lou Nye, 62; Mary Jo Nye, 60; Dorothy "Judy" Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; and then-14-year-old Abigail Kopf.

Carruthers and Kopf survived the shootings.

After Dalton was taken into custody, he was interrogated twice, separately by officers with the Michigan State Police and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

"He was a white male, salt-and-pepper-colored hair, wearing glasses. ... He was short and heavy-set. ... Besides that, nothing stood out about him," Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety detective Cory Ghiringhelli told 20/20.

Investigators spoke with him over the course of about four hours overnight and the next day. Dalton showed no emotion in the interrogation room, said detective Bill Moorian of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

"There was no fluctuation in his voice. He was just sitting there going through the motions that were going on and it was just unusual," Moorian said. "[I] never had anybody like that before."

Investigators say that during the interrogation, Dalton was initially hesitant to talk with the officers, refusing to answer their questions and pleading the fifth. He did speak to them about his beloved dog, a black German shepherd, and even asked to call his wife, though shortly after she picked up the phone and a quick exchange, he hung up, telling officers he'd only wanted to hear her voice.

Finally, however, he began to talk about the Uber app.

Dalton claimed that he'd seen the symbol of the Eastern Star when he initially logged into the Uber app, Kalamazoo detective Ghiringhelli said.

"That started this whole thing," Ghiringhelli recounted from the interrogation.

"I just tapped it and then there was like a devil head that popped up," Dalton told investigators in the tapes. "It was some sort of like horned, horned head like a cow head or something. ... I pressed that button and that's where all the problems went after that."

Dalton told detectives that the Uber app had taken control of him.

"You can drive over a hundred miles an hour and go through stoplights and nothing will, you can just get places. ... When I tapped that, it said that I could say whatever I wanted to. ... There would be no repercussion," he said.

Dalton said the app would start off red and then switch to black.

"When it's in that black mode, it literally has control of you," he said. "It would do a little blink at me."

Ghiringhelli said that according to Dalton, the app gave him an assignment and he had to complete the assignment.

"It was like he was a puppet," Ghiringhelli told 20/20.

The phone communicated with him, Dalton told investigators, instructing him on what to do. "One ding" meant "yes" and "two dings" signaled "no."

Dalton also told investigators that when officers pulled him over around midnight, ending the shooting spree, he'd almost reached for his gun but the phone had returned to red. Dalton said that's why he did not shoot at the officers.

"I was no longer being guided. ... I mean, that's not my nature to be that way," he told detectives. "The minute that the app went from black to red. ... I had my presence."

"I wasn't believing any of it but if it's something that's gonna make him talk, you're not going to shut him down," Moorian said. "So, we just let him talk about it and we tried to encourage him."

Dalton also told investigators that prior to the shootings, he had not been sleeping and that was "not normal" for him.

"I've mainly just lied down a few times," he said. "I've been going for a long time. ... I think I've been going for probably more than 24 hours."

He told them he had no idea how many people he'd shot and said that shootings had been totally random. He also revealed that he remembered shooting a child.

Michigan State Police detective Sgt. Kyle Gorham said Dalton's voice had changed "dramatically" when he spoke of shooting Kopf.

"He felt badly for the child and the family of the child but he didn't express any remorse for anybody else," Moorian said.

Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeff Getting said that as far as they know, Dalton had no marital trouble, emotional trouble, criminal record or financial problems. Getting said there was also no evidence of Dalton's being an extremist.

On Jan. 7, nearly three years after the shootings, Dalton pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of assault with the intent to commit murder.

The decision was a surprise as attorneys were preparing to select a jury for his criminal trial. A judge sentenced him on Feb. 5 to life in prison without the possibility of a parole.

When reaching out to Uber for comment, a representative referred 20/20 to a 2016 call with reporters about the Kalamazoo incident, during which Uber's then-chief security officer, Joe Sullivan said, in part, “I want to reiterate how devastated we are by these murders, and that our thoughts are with the victims' families and the broader community in Kalamazoo. As the local police have made clear, the perpetrator had no criminal record, and if there's nothing on someone's record, then no background check is going to raise a flag. As this case has shown, past behavior may not accurately predict how people will behave in the future. This is where technology can help ensure safety before, during and after a ride in ways that was not possible a decade ago.”

“We're deeply committed to the safety of everyone on our platform, as well as the communities we serve, and we have a clear policy that prohibits having firearms in the vehicle,” he added.

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Kuzma/iStock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- A Utah man who allegedly attacked three men with a metal pole after shouting that he wanted to "kill Mexicans" has been charged with federal hate crimes, authorities said.

A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday indicted Alan Covington on three counts of hate crimes. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Covington is accused of entering a Salt Lake City tire shop on Nov. 27 and yelling that he wanted to "kill Mexicans" before striking a man in the head with a metal pole. The grand jury indictment alleges that the attack was "an attempt to kill." Covington then allegedly struck another man with the pole. Both men suffered bodily injury.

Covington is also accused of swinging the pole at a third man in an attempt to injure him.

The indictment alleges Covington attacked the three men, who are employees at the tire shop, because he believed they were Mexican.

The FBI is investigating the case with the help of the Salt Lake City Police Department.

It's unclear whether Covington, who is also facing state charges, has retained an attorney to represent him on the federal charges.

He is being held at the Salt Lake County jail on $100,000 bond, according to booking records. The alleged incident renewed calls for Utah to strengthen its state hate-crimes law, which currently doesn't name protected groups.

"This attack sowed fear into our community," Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a statement Wednesday, applauding the indictment. "It is time Utah adopt comprehensive hate crime legislation to give law enforcement and investigators the tools they need to prosecute these types of crime."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- One of the most confounding high-profile criminal investigations in recent memory finally found its mark on Thursday, when Chicago police investigators charged Empire star Jesse Smollett with a felony charge for filing a false statement.

The beloved, gay black actor said that he was beaten, battered with racial and homophobic epithets and left lying on an icy Chicago sidewalk in the middle of the night, covered in a powdery substance and with a noose-like rope around his neck.

It was such a vicious attack that to some it seemed unthinkable.

The weeks-long investigation into the incident –- an alarming account that sizzled with a spectrum of hot button issues ranging from race, sexuality and politics to crime and celebrity -- riveted and distressed a deeply-divided nation.

From nearly the start, when news of the incident first surfaced, an amorphous suspicion of Smollett's story took hold on social media and elsewhere, but over time skepticism bled into disbelief for some, while Smollett's fans and friends doubled-down again and again on their support for him. As days passed without a resolution to the investigation, the actor's account of the alleged attack was picked apart, questioned, defended and debated.

Through statements and his attorneys, Smollett has consistently denied staging the attack.

Yet throughout, Smollett was relentless in his defense of his account and the fact of the attack.

Two days after the alleged assault, Smollett’s family issued a statement calling it a hate crime and insisting that the actor’s story is consistent.

“We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime," the family wrote in the statement to ABC News. "Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice."

The next day, Smollett issued his own statement, again reiterating that “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level.”

.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.

This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019

The following day, Feb. 2, Smollett gave his first performance since the alleged attack at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California. "Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love," Smollett said. He became emotional and began tearing up before beginning his set. "We hope that you all stand with us."

Shortly after the attack was reported in the media, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) released a statement praising the openly-gay actor for always “using "his voice and talent to create a better world."

"Our hearts are with Jussie Smollett as he recovers from a hate-motivated and repugnant attack in Chicago. Jussie has always used his voice and talent to create a better world, and it is disgusting that anyone, especially someone who has done such good for so many, would be targeted by undeniable hatred," the statement read in part.

Two weeks later, with a widening skepticism about -- and virulent defenses of -- his story surging through social media, Smollett sat down for an exclusive interview with Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, during which he addressed public suspicion about a number of details in his account to police.

There is no such thing as “racially charged.”

This attack was not “possibly” homophobic. It was a racist and homophobic attack.

If you don’t like what is happening to our country, then work to change it. It is no one’s job to water down or sugar-coat the rise of hate crimes. https://t.co/QAi0IYtSeR

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 30, 2019

Why did he initially decline to turn over his cell phone to police, who were interested in corroborating his contention that he was on his cell phone with his music manager when the attack unfolded?

"They wanted me to give my phone to the tech for three to four hours. I'm sorry but -- I'm not gonna do that," the singer said. "Because I have private pictures and videos and numbers: my partner's number, my family's number, my castmate's number, my friends' numbers, my private emails, my private songs, my private voice memos."

But the day earlier, apparently unbeknownst to Smollett, Chicago police investigators had been quietly tracking the two "persons of interest" learned that these two men were returning to Chicago on Feb. 13 from Nigeria and moved in. The pair were detained at the airport, placed under arrest and taken in for questioning.

Those two individuals had been captured on a grainy surveillance video image near the scene and around the time of the alleged attack. The two men turned out to be brothers, with a connections to Smollett, who were ultimately released without charges, despite Smollett insisting in an exclusive interview with ABC News that he was certain those two men were his assailants.

"I don't have any doubt in my mind that that's them," Smollett said. "Never did."

It turns out that, if police are to be believed, it may have been the most truthful statement Smollett made all month.

By Feb. 16, news began to leak out that brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo had agreed to cooperate with authorities after detectives confronted them with evidence that they bought the rope -- allegedly used in an attack that Smollett described to police as laced with racial and homophobic slurs -- at a local hardware store, sources said.

In response, Smollett hit back again at the suggestion that the incident was a hoax, and expressed disbelief that the brothers could have been involved.

“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," began a statement from Smollett attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson. "He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video," the statement continued. "It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity."

As news surfaced of Smollett's potential culpability in staging the attack, civil rights leaders including New York's Rev. Al Sharpton adjusted their views of the whole affair.

“I, among many others when hearing of the report, said that the reports were horrific and that we should come with all that we can come with in law enforcement to find out what happened and the guilty should suffer the maximum,” Sharpton said Sunday night show on MSNBC.

“I still maintain that,” he continued. “And if it is that Smollett and these gentlemen did in some way perpetuate something that is not true, they ought to face accountability to the maximum.”

With Smollett officially charged with a felony for allegedly concocting a hoax, local law enforcement officials were anything but jubilant.

"That was a pretty hateful allegation, and it really put a terrible look on Chicago," Guglielmi told ABC Chicago station WLS in a telephone interview Thursday morning. "Chicago trusted this young man. We loved Empire, and we took this very seriously that something this hateful could happen in our city."

On Thursday, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted Smollett in an emotional press conference in which he said that Smollett's alleged staging of a hoax attack was a "publicity stunt...to promote his career."

"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Johnson said. "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? ... How can an individual who's been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?"

Johnson charged that Smollett, an actor on the hit show Empire who has consistently denied any role in staging the alleged attack, orchestrated it because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."

In a new statement on Thursday, officials from 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said that "[w]e understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."

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