Chicago, Mar 9 (AP/UNB) — A grand jury in Chicago indicted "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs.
The Cook County grand jury indictment dated Thursday and made public on Friday gives details of the disorderly conduct charge against Smollett. It elaborates on the allegation that he falsely reported that he was attacked on Jan. 28 by two masked men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at the black and openly gay actor, beat him, threw an unidentified liquid chemical on him and looped a rope tied like a noose around his neck.
The indictment — eight counts from what he told the officer who responded to the report of the attack and eight for what he later told a detective — comes a little more than two weeks after prosecutors announced one felony count of the same charge.
Chicago police initially investigated the incident as a possible hate crime but later said Smollett staged the attack, recruiting two brothers to carry it out, because he was unhappy with his pay on the Fox show.
Indictments like the one revealed Friday are common in criminal cases. It was widely expected, said Mark Geragos, a prominent attorney representing Smollett.
"The way the process operates is they have to do a probable cause proceeding, so this is what's called a probable cause proceeding.I never thought they would do a preliminary hearing," Geragos told NBC's "Access" after the indictment was reported.
Smollett, who was released on bail from jail the day after he was charged on Feb. 20, is scheduled to appear in court next week. He has denied the allegations.
While it was not immediately clear why the grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts, it divides what prosecutors and police say the actor told the officer who responded to the initial call from what he said to the detective.
The second eight counts are more explosive because they include two things that helped propel the incident into an international sensation. The first is that by the time he talked to the detective, Smollett said he could see through the eye holes of one attacker's mask that he was a white man. The two brothers who allegedly participated are black.
"He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who is black, told reporters the day Smollett was initially charged. Johnson said Smollett paid the two brothers $3,500 to carry out the staged attack.
The second eight counts also include the allegation that Smollett told the detective one of the attackers looped a rope around his neck — a detail that both Johnson and the judge who set Smollett's bond said was a particularly offensive use of a symbol of the ugly history of black lynchings in the United States.
The indictment, written in the dry legal language, does not include new details.
It says that Smollett knew at the time he relayed his account that he had "no reasonable ground that such an offense had been committed."
Since Smollett's arrest, the producers of "Empire" announced that the actor's character would be removed from the season's final two episodes.
Dhaka, Mar 07 (UNB) - The 2019 edition of the Joy Bangla Concert, arranged by Young Bangla, an associate of Centre for Research and Information (CRI) is being broadcast live by the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) from the Army Stadium.
The concert has been arranged for the last few years to commemorate the historic March 7 speech by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1971.
The concert will continue till 11:00pm.
New York, Mar 6(AP/UNB) — Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema announced Tuesday that it has acquired film rights to Hello Kitty from the Japanese corporation Sanrio. The 45-year-old iconic feline has never been turned into a movie despite its merchandising ubiquity.
New Line said it will quickly begin work on a script to put a film into production. Sanrio also granted film rights to other characters including Gudetama, My Melody and Little Twin Stars.
Warner Bros. has had success with toy adaptations before, including "The Lego Movie." That film's sequel, however, has underperformed at the box office since opening last month.
Hello Kitty presents potentially steeper challengers, though. She doesn't talk or, for the most part, change facial expressions.
Montreal, Mar 6 (AP/UNB) — Three major Montreal radio stations have stopped playing Michael Jackson songs as a Result of child-molestation allegations against the late musician that aired Sunday in an HBO documentary.
A spokeswoman for the owner of the French-language stations CKOI and Rythme and the English-language The Beat says Jackson's music was pulled starting Monday morning.
Cogeco spokeswoman Christine Dicaire says the action is a response to listener reactions to the documentary.
She added that the decision will also apply to Cogeco Media stations in smaller markets in Quebec. The company operates 23 radio stations.
The documentary "Leaving Neverland" began airing on HBO Sunday. It details the abuse allegations of two men who had previously denied Jackson molested them and actually supported him to authorities.
Los Angeles, Mar 4 (AP/UNB) — "How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" topped the North American box office for a second week, but close on its tail was Tyler Perry's final installment of the "Madea" franchise. Driven by a largely female audience, "A Madea Family Funeral" had a better-than-expected debut.
The third installment in the "How To Train Your Dragon" series grossed an estimated $30 million this weekend according to Universal Pictures on Sunday, bringing its domestic total just shy of $100 million. Worldwide, the DreamWorks Animation film has made over $375 million. In China alone it opened in first place with $33.4 million.
"A Madea Family Funeral" took second place at the domestic box office with an estimated $27 million, a third best for the 15-year-old franchise. The "Madea" films have never been all that popular with critics — this one splattered out with a 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — but audiences have never seemed to care. This time around the audience, which was 67 percent female and 78 percent over the age of 25, gave the film a solid A- CinemaScore.
"That character just resonates," said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "These films are absolutely critic proof. The audience has spoken and they love Madea and they're saying goodbye."
Further down the charts, the Neil Jordan stalker-thriller "Greta," starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz, opened in eighth place to a mediocre $4.6 million.
"Greta was just another newcomer released in 2019 that had a rough go in a slow marketplace," Dergarabedian said. "This might have benefited from a platform release given the subject matter and the cast."
The acclaimed documentary "Apollo 11" also opened on 120 IMAX screens to $1.65 million.
Many people, however, used this weekend to catch-up with the big winners at the Oscars, which took place last Sunday.
Best-picture winner "Green Book" got the biggest post-Oscars bump, adding $4.71 million over the weekend from theaters. To date, "Green Book" has earned $75.2 million in North America and $188 million worldwide.
The Universal-distributed film from Participant Media more than doubled its theater count to 2,641 theaters and broke into the top 5 in its 16th weekend, not to mention the fact that it's also available to rent on the small screen too.
For comparison, last year's best picture winner "The Shape of Water" added $2.3 million on the weekend following the Academy Awards, although that was playing in about 1,000 fewer theaters.
"Green Book" wasn't the only award-winner adding profits this weekend. Best Animated Feature winner "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" banked an additional $2.1 million, the encore version of "A Star Is Born" with 12 additional minutes of footage added $1.9 million, "Bohemian Rhapsody" earned $975,000 and "The Favourite" took in $825,000.
"People wonder why studios spend millions on Oscar campaigns: They're getting a nice boost and adding money even while they're available on the small screen," Dergarabedian said.
But overall the box office continues to struggle industry-wide. Both the year and the weekend are down 26 percent, in part due to the fact that there hasn't been any film comparable to "Black Panther," which accounted for the stellar early-year numbers in 2018.
Marvel is coming back to save the day yet again, however: "Captain Marvel" opens nationwide next weekend.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Tuesday.
1."How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World," $30 million ($52 million international).
2.Tyler Perry's "A Madea Family Funeral," $27 million ($58,000 international).
3."Alita: Battle Angel," $7 million ($40.4 million international).
4."The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part," $6.6 million ($6.1 million international).
5."Green Book," $4.7 million ($31.9 million international).
6."Fighting With My Family," $4.7 million ($2.3 million international).
7."Isn't It Romantic," $4.6 million.
8."Greta," $4.6 million ($400,000 international).
9."What Men Want," $2.7 million ($1.1 million international).
10."Happy Death Day 2U," $2.5 million ($6.2 million international).
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. "How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World," $52 million.
2. "Alita: Battle Angel," $40.4 million.
3. "Green Book," $31.9 million.
4. "The Wandering Earth," $14.9 million.
5. "Escape Room," $6.3 million.
6. "Happy Death Day 2U," $6.2 million.
7. "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part," $6.1 million.
8. "Cold Pursuit," $5.9 million.
9. "Resistance: The Yoo Kwan-soon Story," $5.2 million.
10. "Svaha: The Sixth Finger," $4.7 million.