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New Footage Released in Jussie Smollet Case

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  • Chicago Police released footage in the Jussie Smollett case, including footage of them arriving at his apartment after the alleged attack, which shows the actor still wearing a rope around his neck.
  • A special prosecutor was appointed on Friday to look into the case and look into a previous prosecutors’ decision to drop charges against Smollett.
  • Though Smollett has maintained his innocence, Chicago Police have been clear that they believe he staged a hate crime against himself in January.
  • Due to the recent appointment of a special prosecutor, Smollett could be charged in the case again.

Chicago police released video footage on Monday from the Jussie Smollett case, including body cam footage of their response after the incident. 

The footage, which was obtained by local media outlets, runs up to 70 hours long. Smollett, an actor best known for his role on Empire, was accused of staging a hate crime against himself in January. 

In the clip showing police arriving at his apartment after the alleged attack, a man who identifies himself as Smollett’s creative director greets the police and takes them upstairs. He quickly tells the police who Smollett is. 

“He, he is like a star,” he says. “He works on the show Empire…he doesn’t want this to be a big deal, you see what I’m saying.”

Once police enter the apartment, Smollett can be seen with a rope on his neck. Officers ask if he wants to remove it.

Yeah, I do,” Smollett responds. “I just wanted you to see.”

He then removes the rope and tells officers bleach was poured on him. When he learns that he is being recorded, he requests for filming to stop.

Officers also released videos from before and after the alleged attack. One video depicts the Osundairo brothers, the original suspects in the case, in a cab on the way to the alleged scene. Another video shows them fleeing a nearby area.

According to the Chicago Tribune, police also released documents about the case, including text messages between one of the Osundairo brothers and Smollett. The Tribune says that the messages show that Smollett may have reached out to the brothers for drugs on a regular basis. 

Previous document dumps have also shown Smollett texting the Osundairo brothers “Might need your help on the low” prior to the alleged attack.

Special Prosecutor Appointed

This footage dump comes several days after a special prosecutor was appointed to look into Smollett’s case. This opens the door for Smollett to be charged in relation to the incident again.  On Friday, a Cook County judge wrote a 21-page opinion about his decision. 

“The unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrants the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system,” he wrote. 

Smollett was indicted on 16 criminal counts. Charges were later dropped against him in a reversal that angered the Chicago Police Department. The prosecutor will look specifically into the decision to drop all charges against Smollett. They will also look into Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx’s recusal from the case, and her choice to appoint one of her aides as a replacement. 

Chief Communications Officer for Chicago Police tweeted about the special prosecutor and maintained their belief in Smollett’s guilt. 

Background on Smollett Case

In January, Smollett claimed that two masked men attacked him by yelling racial and homophobic slurs, tying a rope around his neck, pouring bleach on him, and yelling “this is MAGA country.” When police identified and interrogated two suspects, the Osandairo brothers, they told officers they were paid by Smollett to stage the attack. 

Smollett was charged with several felony counts, including disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. He turned himself into authorities, but charges were dropped on March 26. He had to pay $10,000 in bond to the city of Chicago. 

Smollett maintains his innocence in the case. However, Chicago Police are suing the actor, and the Osandairo brothers are suing his attorneys. He will not appear in the next season of Empire

See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (CBS Chicago) (ABC News)

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Halle Berry Apologizes for Considering a Transgender Role in an Upcoming Film

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  • In an Instagram live interview Friday, Halle Berry mentioned that she was considering taking the role of a transgender man, while repeatedly misgendering him by using “she/her” pronouns. 
  • Some responded with anger, but many asked her to reconsider and educate herself on trans issues. 
  • People specifically asked her to watch Netflix’s “Disclosure,” a documentary that explores trans representation in Hollywood and the real-world implications trans depictions have on the trans community. 
  • Halle apologized Monday, promising to promote better representation both on and offscreen. Her apology was welcomed by fans, GLAAD, and “Disclosure,” which thanked her for listening and learning. 

Berry Considers Taking Transgender Role 

After a weekend of backlash, education, and conversations about transgender representation, actor Halle Berry announced Monday that she is no longer considering plans to play a transgender character.

The backlash against Berry first appeared Friday after she took part in an Instagram live interview with hairstylist Christin Brown. In that stream, Berry talked about possibly cutting her hair short again for a potential new film project, saying, “I’m thinking of playing a character where the woman is a trans character, so my hair is gonna have to be – she’s a woman that transitioned into a man, so my hair is going to be really shaved.” 

“I want to experience that world, I want to understand that world. I want to understand that character. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did ‘Bruised,’ Berry continued.

“This world, who this woman was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next acting role.”

“It’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman, that’s a female story actually– it changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that,” she added.

Internet Asks Berry to Reconsider 

When people caught wind of this interview, people took issue with her remarks and the idea that a cisgender woman would be taking on such a role.

This isn’t exactly a new point of debate. For instance, Scarlett Johansson came under similar scrutiny in the past when she initially accepting the role of a transgender man for the film “Rub & Tug,” which she later walked away from after backlash. 

However, in Berry’s case, people were also upset by her lack of knowledge about the transgender community, noting that she repeatedly misgendered the character by using “she/her pronouns.”   

Still, while some people responded with anger, a lot of people took the approach of asking her to educate herself on trans issues and reconsider taking that role. Many actually asked her to watch Netflix’s new documentary “Disclosure,” which is executive produced by Laverne Cox. That film takes an in-depth look at Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people to help understand the real-world implications they have on the trans community. 

On Monday, the official Twitter account for the documentary even shared a clip from the project, writing, “Today is a good day to remind people that casting trans actors in trans roles is more than about opportunity.”

Then it directly addressed Berry in another post, asking her to watch the film “to understand how cis actors like yourself acting in trans roles has major cultural consequences offscreen.”

Others continued sharing similar messages, including the film’s director Sam Feder, who added, “Often people don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s ok!” 

Halley Berry Responds 

By Monday evening, Berry responded with a statement posted to her social media pages apologizing for her remarks and adding, “As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.”

She explained that she was grateful for the guidance and critical conversations that have taken place over the last few days, adding. “I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.” 

Berry Thanked for Listening

Berry’s statement was received very well, with a lot of people thanking her for being willing to engage in dialogue with others and responding with a statement so quickly. 

Similar sentiments came from the documentary’s account, which thanked her for listening and learning. 

GLAAD also tweeted at Berry, saying it was pleased that she had listened to the concerns of transgender people, adding, “Other powerful people should do the same.” 

Still, Berry has faced some criticism from those angry with her for apologizing, as some believe there should more flexibility in Hollywood about who can play what roles. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro for instance called her statement “performative wokeness.” 

But that is a point the film’s Twitter account hit on Monday when it first addressed Berry’s initial comments. At the time, the account tweeted, “In preemptive response to the critique that all artists should be able to play any role.@Lavernecox “I think if all things were equal, then [yes]. But all things are not equal.”

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Insider) (Vanity Fair

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Harvey Weinstein Reaches Tentative $19 Million Settlement in New York

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  • Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reached a tentative $19 million settlement in New York that creates a compensation fund for his alleged victims. 
  • This comes after he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape charges. He is also awaiting trial for more sex crime charges in Los Angeles. 
  • While New York Attorney General Letitia James and several plaintiffs celebrated the settlement as a win for victims, not everyone is happy with it. 
  • Two attorneys representing six of Weinstein’s accusers think it does not go far enough because Weinstein is not required to accept responsibility or pay up himself.

Settlement Reached

A nearly $19 million tentative settlement has been reached between disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein and several of his accusers, according to New York’s Attorney General.

On Tuesday, the Attorney General’s office released a statement announcing the settlement, which will create an $18.87 million compensation fund for Weinstein’s victims if it is approved by bankruptcy and district courts. The release did not state specifically how many women would be accessing this fund, but reports indicate it will be split between dozens of women. Weinstein, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape charges in March, had been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women.

The settlement stems from two lawsuits. The first was a 2017 class-action suit brought forward on behalf of women who claim Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. The second was filed in 2018 and alleges that Weinstein maintained a hostile work environment at the Weinstein Company. That lawsuit also claims that his brother, Robert Weinstein, aided in creating the degrading workplace. 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the funding will break down into two different tiers. Women will be able to submit a form describing their experience with Weinstein and its effects. Tier 1 claimants will get between $7,500 and $150,000, while Tier 2 claimants will receive between $7,500 and $750,000. The settlement will also release women from their non-disclosure agreements with the Weinstein Company.

“For more than two years, my office has fought tirelessly in the pursuit of justice for the women whose lives were upended by Harvey Weinstein,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “This agreement is a win for every woman who has experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or retaliation by her employer.”

Plaintiffs Respond

As part of their two-year investigation, the Attorney General’s office has interviewed Weinstein Company employees, executives, and survivors of misconduct and assault at the hands of Weinstein. The lawsuits leading up to this settlement allege that he persistently sexually harassed and berated female employees. It also claims that some female employees were required to perform work while Weinstein was partially or fully naked and that he demanded or forced them to engage in unwanted sexual acts while he dangled the promise of career advancement. According to the suits, Robert Weinstein aided and abetted these actions by choosing to not investigate complaints into this behavior. 

“Harvey Weinstein left a trail of trauma that was crushing for many women. We had aspirations for careers in a business we truly loved, and Weinstein took that dream from us and much more,” said Louisette Geiss, who accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct in 2017. “I knew that I wasn’t alone, and by linking arms with survivors, we were able to fight for meaningful change in this groundbreaking case.”

Guess was one of the plaintiffs involved in this case. Caitlin Dulany, another plaintiff who also accused Weinstein of harassment, released her own statement following the news of the settlement as well. 

“Harvey avoided accountability for decades, and it was a powerful moment for us to band together and demand justice,” Delany said. “Knowing that we will help so many women who are long overdue for relief gives me hope that this settlement will continue to empower others to speak.”

Backlash Against Settlement

However, not everyone involved with this case was applauding the tentative settlement. Attorneys Douglas Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer, who represents six of Weinstein’s accusers, called it a “total sellout.”

“We are surprised that the Attorney General could somehow boast about a proposal that fails on so many different levels,” they said in a statement, obtained and published in full by the Hollywood Reporter. “While we do not begrudge any survivor who truly wants to participate in this deal, as we understand the proposed agreement, it is deeply unfair for many reasons.”

Wigdor and Mintzer listed numerous critiques of the settlement, including the fact that Weinstein is still accepting no responsibility for his actions, as well as the fact that he is not required to pay the settlement himself. The attorneys also claim that it puts up a roadblock for women who did not join the settlement because they will not be able to access a big chunk of money protected by insurance companies in the fund. They plan on objecting it in court. 

Throughout the onslaught of accusations against him, Weinstein has maintained his innocence. According to his lawyer, he plans on attempting to appeal criminal convictions against him, and defending himself in civil lawsuits. He is also facing multiple sex crime charges in Los Angeles County, where he plans on defending himself as well. 

It is unclear when his Los Angeles trial will begin because coronavirus has held up many aspects of court proceedings. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Lili Reinhart Apologizes for Using Topless Photo to Demand Justice for Breonna Taylor

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  • After backlash, Lili Reinhart deleted a topless Instagram photo she posted with the caption, “Now that my sideboob has gotten your attention, Breonna Taylor’s murderers have not been arrested. Demand justice.”
  • Fans felt her post played into the trend of memeing or using Taylor’s name for a punchline, which many say disrespects and trivializes her story. 
  • Reinhart apologized, saying she never meant to come off as insensitive and is trying to learn and do better. 
  • While some responded with name-calling, others called it an opportunity to educate, noting that Reinhart has been amplifying Black voices and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement on Instagram. 

Reinhart Posts Topless Photo 

“Riverdale” star Lili Reinhart apologized Monday for the photo she chose to use when demanding justice for Breonna Taylor on Instagram.

Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed by Louisville police on March 13. The night of her death, Taylor and her boyfriend were in bed when officers with a no-knock warrant began to force their way into their apartment. When her boyfriend fired his gun at who he believed were intruders, officers returned fired, striking Taylor at least eight times. 

In recent weeks, her name has been used as a rallying cry during Black Lives Matter protests, along with the names of other Black individuals who were unjustly killed by authorities like George Floyd, Eric Garner, and others. 

With Taylor’s case, in particular, people have continuously called for the officers involved to face charges. It seems like Reinhart tried to join in on those calls when she posted a photo of herself topless with the caption, “Now that my sideboob has gotten your attention, Breonna Taylor’s murderers have not been arrested. Demand justice.”

@lilireinhart

Photo Prompts Outrage for Memeing Taylor’s Name 

However, fans were quick to slam the actress for the post. “This is sick, why do she use Breonna Taylor’s name as an excuse to post her sexy pic? weird and gross,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another said, “The only thing that post did is get a bunch of people to talk about lili reinhart’s boobs. it was a thirst trap with a BLM caption. what are the odds that someone looks at a pic of lili’s boobs and says yas lemme demand justice!”

After likely seeing similar responses in the comments, Reinhart quickly deleted the caption but left the photo up. Doing so further caused people to question her intentions, with some saying this proved she was using Taylor’s name for a “quirky caption.”

Still, fans came to her defense, saying they didn’t see and issue with the post and that she was just trying to support the movement. 

Some noted that it’s very common online for people to post something that lures people in, only to redirect their focus towards real issues. 

However, in recent weeks, people have become increasingly worried that the Black Lives Matter movement is being treated as a trend for likes on social media. With Breonna Taylor’s case specifically, many have been especially frustrated that her name and phrases like “arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor” have become a meme or a punchline. 

Some use the phrase, or a variation of it, in tweets, while others edit the message into images.

This subject is actually something that has been a point of debate for a while now. For instance, musical artist Lil Nas X faced similar backlash in June when he posted a meme about arresting the officers in her case. 

That tweet began with, “yeah, i’m gay.” Then it continued, 

“g- arrest,

a- Breonna Taylor’s

y- murderers.”

Image
@LilNasX

After seeing some negative responses, he deleted the post and tweeted, “i want u guys to know if i make a meme out of something it doesn’t mean i don’t care about it, my following usually reacts the most when humour is involved. it’s my most efficient way of bringing awarness to anything. i do understand the backlash tho, and i’m learning.”

Like in Reinhart’s case, some felt his intentions were good and that this approach grabs people’s attention. However, the majority of people think these memes trivialize Taylor’s death and are asking that people respect her name and her story.

Reinhart Apologizes 

In response to all this frustration, Reinhart deleted the photo and took to Twitter on Monday to apologize. 

“I’ve always tried to use my platform for good. And speak up about things that are important to me,” she wrote.  “I also can admit when I make a mistake and I made a mistake with my caption. It was never my intent to insult anyone and I’m truly sorry to those that were offended.”

She then referenced some of her IGTV posts of conversations with Black entrepreneurs, writers, and activists.

@lilireinhart’s IGTV posts

“I’ve tried very hard to be honest on my IGTV lives that I’m still learning and trying to be better,” she wrote. “But I understand that my caption came off as tone deaf. I truly had good intentions and did not think it through that it could come off as insensitive.”

For the most part, fans seem glad that she admitted her mistake. While some people responded with name-calling, most argued that isn’t helpful, especially against someone who uses her platform to amplify Black voices and speak about the movement. 

Many are hoping that Reinhart’s case serves as a lesson to anyone who might be using Taylor’s name in a similar way on social media, and are using this as an opportunity to educate others. 

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (NBC News) (Nylon

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