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Jussie Smollett Indicted Again Over Alleged Hate Crime Hoax

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  • Actor Jussie Smollett was indicted again on six counts of disorderly conduct for falsifying a police report. 
  • This comes almost a year after he was indicted on 16 counts of the same charge, which prosecutors abruptly dropped.
  • In January 2019, Smollett claimed he was the victim of a brutal homophobic and racist hate crime. After Chicago police investigated, they claimed the actor had actually staged the attack himself. 
  • These new indictments come from prosecutor Dan Webb, who was appointed to look into Smollett’s case as well as the way the Cook County State’s Attorney Office handled it.

New Indictments

Actor Jussie Smollett is facing six new indictments of disorderly conduct for falsifying a police report for allegedly staging a fake hate crime in Chicago in 2019.

These indictments come after special prosecutor Dan Webb spent six months investigating the case. Back in August a judge appointed Webb to look into Smollett, who was previously indicted on 16 counts of the same charge in March, only for those charges to be abruptly dropped by Cook County prosecutors. Webb was assigned to look into further prosecuting Smollett, as well as any potential mishandlings of the case by the Cook County State’s Attorney Office.

“The grand jury’s investigation revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred,” Webb’s office wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “Therefore, Mr. Webb has determined that reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Mr. Smollett.”

He added that further charging Smollett is “in the interest of justice.” 

Webb has not made any conclusions as to whether or not the Cook County State’s Attorney Office mishandled the case and is still investigating this aspect. The statement did note that he disagreed with their choice to drop charges. 

The Jussie Smollett Case

Back in January 2019, Smollett, who is black and gay, said that two men attacked him in a hate crime. He claimed that they yelled racist and homophobic things at him, beat him, tied a noose around him, and poured chemicals on him. After Chicago Police investigated the matter, however, they said they found Smollett actually staged the attack and hired two people to do this.

Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, who was assigned to oversee the case, recused herself in February before indictments were handed out. In March, Smollett was handed the 16 indictments, to which he pleaded not guilty. When they were dropped a few weeks later, he had to forfeit his $10,000 bond and do community service but did not have to admit any wrongdoing.

This news upset Chicago city officials and police, with then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel calling it “a whitewash of justice.”

The city of Chicago ended up filing a civil suit demanding that Smollett cover the $130,000 that was spent in overtime pay to investigate his report. Smollett later sued the city for malicious prosecution.

Responses

Foxx’s office released a statement disagreeing with the latest charges. Foxx faces a primary election in just a month, and her handling of the Smollett cases has been one of her campaign’s biggest hurdles. Her office believes the timing of these new charges is politically motivated. 

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office charged Jussie Smollett with multiple counts, and today the Special Prosecutor did the same,” her office’s statement said. “What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision, just 35 days before an election, which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system.”

Smollett’s legal team also mentioned the upcoming election while expressing their disapproval of the new indictments. 

“The charges were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence,” Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian said in a statement. “The attempt to re-prosecute Mr. Smollett one year later on the eve of the Cook County State’s Attorney election is clearly all about politics not justice.”

On the other side, when Emanuel was asked about the indictment, he told ABC7 in Chicago that the news “speaks for itself.”

The city of Chicago also released a statement of its own. They noted that the civil case against Smollett still stands.

“We look forward to reviewing the indictment and, as we have said previously, the City stands by our original complaint seeking to recover costs for Mr. Smollett’s false statements,” the city’s statement said. “We again thank the Chicago Police Department detectives for their hard work on the original investigation.”

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

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Halyna Hutchins Family Settles With “Rust” Production, Filming to Resume in 2023

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Alec Baldwin said everyone involved was motivated by the “desire to do what is best for Halyna’s son.”


Settlement Reached

The family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot on the set of “Rust” last year, reached a settlement with the production over a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday. 

The lawsuit was filed in February, several months after Hutchins’ death in New Mexico last October. The cast and crew were rehearsing a scene that involved producer and actor Alec Baldwin pointing a gun toward the camera. Baldwin claims he did not know it was loaded when it fired, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. 

The actor also claims he did not actually pull the trigger, but investigators determined it must have been pulled. 

Hutchins’ husband Matthew filed the wrongful death suit on behalf of himself and his young son. It claimed that the production did not follow proper safety procedures and endangered the crew via reckless cost-cutting measures. Baldwin was listed as a defendant, as well as the set’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, first assistant director, Dave Halls, and others involved with the film. 

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but as part of the agreement, the production of “Rust” will resume in January 2023. The late cinematographer’s husband will join the project as an executive producer. 

“I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin),” he said in a statement. “All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”

A Tribute to Hutchins

Souza will return as the director. In a statement, he said his “every effort on this film will be devoted to honoring” Hutchins.

For his part, Baldwin shared the news of the settlement on his Instagram Wednesday morning.

“Throughout this difficult process, everyone has maintained the specific desire to do what is best for Halyna’s son,” he wrote. “We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the resolution of this tragic and painful situation.”

According to The Los Angeles Times, while Gutierrez-Reed and Halls were not part of the settlement, if a judge approves it, the allegations against them will be resolved.

There is still an ongoing criminal probe happening separately from this lawsuit. It is unclear what impact the settlement will have on that, if any. 

Last month, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies sent a letter to the New Mexico Board of Finance seeking additional funding to prosecute up to four people over the incident, including Baldwin. So far, no charges have been filed. 

In April, the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined the production after it found multiple safety violations on set. 

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

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The Try Guys Address Removal of Ned Fulmer: “We Had No Idea This Was Going On”

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The group said that by severing ties with Fulmer, it felt like they were losing a friend. 


“That Is Not What We Stand For”

Digital comedy and sketch group The Try Guys posted a video on Monday night explaining the recent removal of member Ned Fulmer. 

Last week, the Internet was filled with speculation that Fulmer, who is married with children, was having an affair with a staffer for The Try Guys. Fulmer confirmed the reports, claiming he had a “consensual workplace relationship.” The Try Guys quickly announced that Fulmer would no longer be working with the group as the result of an internal review. 

In Monday’s video, the remaining three members, Eugene Lee Yang, Zach Kornfeld, and Keith Habersberger, explained what led to their decision to remove Fulmer. While the trio noted there were legal issues that prevented them from sharing certain details, they wanted to be as transparent as possible. 

“On Labor Day weekend, multiple fans alerted us that they had seen Ned and an employee engaging in public romantic behavior,” Habersberger explained. “We reached out to check on that employee and Ned confirmed the reports, and since confirmed that this had been going on for some time, which was obviously very shocking to us.”

He emphasized that the rest of the group “had no idea this was going on.” 

After this, The Try Guys reached out to a variety of lawyers and HR professionals to make sure they handled the situation correctly. 

“This is something we took very seriously,” Yang said. “We refused to sweep things under the rug. That is not who we are, and that is not what we stand for.” 

Removing Fulmer From Content

They decided to immediately remove Fulmer from work activities and hired an HR rep to conduct a review. Fulmer was also withdrawn from releases pending the results of that review. 

As part of this, his video section was erased, he was digitally taken out of some content, and he was not included in merch drops. The Try Guys said this was a long and tedious process. 

“Honestly, I want to give major props to our editing staff for how deftly they handled that,” Kornfeld said. “There are several videos that we have deemed as fully unreleasable, you will never see them, and that is due to his involvement. And that is a decision that has cost us lots of money.” 

“We will not be able to recoup that money,” he continued. “But it’s a decision we stand by proudly.” 

The group declined to share details of the review but claimed it found that Fulmer engaged in “conduct unbecoming” of the team. Because of this, Yang, Kornfeld, and Habersberger gave written consent on Sept. 16 to ax Fulmer as a manager and employee of The Try Guys company. 

The three said they were always planning to make a public statement about their decision, but were initially waiting out of respect to the families and employees involved. As online speculation arose, they chose to deal with it sooner. 

“We’re losing a friend, we’re losing someone we built a company with, we have countless memories with, we just made a TV show together,” Kornfeld said. “I’m sure many of you feel the same way.” 

According to the group, some upcoming videos featuring Fulmer will be edited to remove him. They said they are currently taking time to reimagine their channel. 

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (People) (Deadline)

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Bruce Willis Denies Rumors He Sold His Likeness For Deepfake Use

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Deepfakes face criticism from Hollywood to social media.


Willis Debunks Rumors

Actor Bruce Willis denied rumors over the weekend that he sold his likeness to the deepfake company DeepCake. 

Willis agreed last year for his face to be used in a commercial for a Russian telecoms company. For this commercial, DeepCake digitally edited Willis’ face onto a Russian actor. This sparked rumors that Willis had sold the rights to his likeness for the company to use in future projects. 

However, both management for Willis and DeepCake itself denied any partnership or agreement for these rights.

“Bruce couldn’t sell anyone any rights, they are his by default,” DeepCake said.

Agreements for the AI generation of actors have been heard of before, however. Recently, actor James Earl Jones agreed for his voice to be technologically generated for the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. 

Deepfakes Online

This comes as deepfakes are facing mounting criticism online, including from prominent YouTube personality and author, Hank Green. He recently tweeted about a channel that uses similar deepfake technology and AI-voice generation to parody popular YouTube creators. He stressed his concern that while the channel in question may not be nefarious, this technology could end up being harmful. 

“There are ways to do this that would be much worse, more mean spirited, and more exploitative than this,” Green said. “And I’m very worried about what that will look like, because if this is working (and allowed), people will do it.”

Among other issues, Green mentioned these videos could abuse monetization and sponsorship opportunities while exploiting someone else’s face and brand. Green even implored YouTube to evaluate its terms of service as the popularity of deepfakes rise. 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Mashable) (The Telegraph)

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