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Suspects In Alleged Attack On Jussie Smollett Released From Chicago Police Custody

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Feb 15 (Reuters) – Suspects arrested in connection with an alleged racist and homophobic assault on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago were released on Friday, police said.

“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” the Chicago Police Department said in a email to Reuters.

The individuals are no longer being classified as suspects, the department said.

A spokesman for the department on Friday night declined to confirm to Reuters whether the individuals released were the two Nigerian brothers police said they arrested on Wednesday at Chicago O’Hare Airport in connection to the attack.

Authorities had previously said only that the pair, whose names have not been released, were persons of interest after they were recognized from surveillance camera footage taken in the area where Smollett said two men shouted slurs at him and put a rope around his neck on Jan. 29.

“Detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime and we are working to corroborate the allegations and investigative timeline as our investigation continues,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement.

He has denied a media report on Thursday that said officers were investigating whether Smollett staged the attack because he was being written out of the television show.

“While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is no evidence to say that this is a hoax. The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect,” Guglielmi said on Friday.

News of the alleged attack on Smollett, a 36-year-old openly gay African-American who plays a gay character on the hip-hop drama “Empire,” caused uproar on social media, but some have doubted Smollett’s account.

In an interview with “Good Morning America” that aired on Thursday, Smollett said he was angry that some people questioned his story, and he suggested the disbelief might come from racial bias.

The two men know Smollett from working on “Empire” and were picked up at the airport on Wednesday after returning from Nigeria where they were visiting family, their lawyer Gloria Schmidt told Chicago TV station CBS2.

Schmidt could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.

Twentieth Century Fox Television, the producer of “Empire” released a statement on Thursday saying the idea that Smollett has been, or would be, written out of the show was “patently ridiculous,” and that they continue to stand behind him. (Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brendan O’Brien Editing by Alistair Bell and Susan Thomas)

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ABC Casts First Black ‘Bachelor’ Following Outcry For Diversity

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(CNN) — Following a petition urging ABC to address a lack of diversity on its enormously popular reality dating franchise, ABC has cast the first black “Bachelor.”

THE BACHELOR – (ABC/Craig Sjodin) MATT JAMES

Matt James will be the star of the 25th season of “The Bachelor.”

James, 28, was a popular contestant on Season 16 of “The Bachelorette” and is the best friend of former “Bachelorette” contestant Tyler Cameron, with whom he runs the non-profit ABC Food Tours.

“Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare’s season,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a statement. “When filming couldn’t move forward as planned, we were given the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor.”

“We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience,” Burke added.

A Change.org petition urging ABC to address a lack of diversity on the reality dating franchise, which includes “The Bachelor” and its lead spinoff, “The Bachelorette,” garnered the support of thousands, including franchise alums.

The petition stated that “ABC and Warner Bros. have been producing Bachelor content for 18 years. During that time they’ve cast 40 season leads, yet only one Black lead. This is unacceptable.”

“As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color (“BIPOC”) relationships, families, and storylines,” the petition reads. “The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country–both in front of and behind the camera.”

Attorney Rachel Lindsay was the first African-American lead of the franchise as “The Bachelorette” during Season 13 of the dating series..

Lindsay retweeted a call to support the diversity campaign launched by writer and franchise superfan Brett S. Vergara earlier this week.

Nick Viall, Season 21’s “Bachelor,” retweeted the campaign and encouraged others to do the same.

The discussion about a lack of inclusion in the franchise not a new one.

In 2012, two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed a class action lawsuit alleging that ABC was intentionally excluding people of color from leading the show after they both applied to be “The Bachelor” in 2011.

That suit was dismissed.

Despite the addition of more contestants of color — and the casting of Juan Pablo Galavis, who is Latino, as Season 18’s “Bachelor” — many viewers have continued to criticize racial disparities in the franchise.

Lindsay said during an interview with “AfterBuzz” last week that she views “The Bachelor’s” diversity issues as “embarrassing” and has considered cutting ties with the franchise.

“We are on 45 presidents. And in 45 presidents there’s been one black president,” Lindsday said. “You are almost on par to say you’re more likely to become the President of the United States than you are a black lead in this franchise. That’s insane. That’s ridiculous.”

Burke said that the network is committed to diversity.

“This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise,” she said. “We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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Father of Sandy Hook School Shooting Victim Dies In Apparent Suicide

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(CNN) — A father dedicated to helping prevent mass shootings after his daughter was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre has died of an apparent suicide.


The body of Jeremy Richman was found in his Connecticut office building Monday morning, Newtown police said.

His death is the third suicide in the past week related to school massacres.

Richman, 49, was the father of 6-year-old Avielle Richman, who was among 20 children and six adults killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Police said they “will not disclose the method or any other details” of Richman’s death, other than it does not appear to be suspicious.

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Parkland Shooting Survivor Sydney Aiello Dies At 19

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(CBS) — On the day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sydney Aiello escaped with her life. However, the grief of losing 17 of her classmates and teachers, as well as the long-lasting effects of enduring such a traumatic event, weighed heavily on her. And this weekend, at the age of 19, Aiello took her own life.

Now, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community is mourning yet another loss.

Sydney’s mother, Cara Aiello, told CBS Miami that her daughter struggled with survivor’s guilt and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the year following the tragedy. And while she reportedly never asked for help, she struggled to attend college classes because she was scared of being in a classroom.

Sydney was also a close friend of Meadow Pollack, one of the students who was shot and killed in the Parkland shooting. Meadow’s father, Andrew, became one of the most visible of the Parkland victims’ parents when he delivered a searing and emotional speech at the White House just a few days after the shooting, arguing for an increase in school safety rather than changes to America’s gun laws.

While the nation’s attention turned to budding young activists like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, however, other Parkland survivors were suffering in silence. And the Aiello family’s tragedy is an all too painful reminder that trauma effects teens deeply, often quietly, and for years.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the shooting, told CBS Miami he worries that more traumatized Parkland teens will take their own lives. So, he has focused his grief and his efforts into suicide prevention.

“It breaks my heart that we’ve lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas,” Petty said. “My advice to parents is to ask questions, don’t wait.”

There is now a GoFundMe page to help Sydney Aiello’s parents and brother pay for her memorial services. 


If you or someone you know is struggling, call
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.

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