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Embattled State’s Attorney Denies Role in Dropping Smollett Charges

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Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Wednesday denied that she had any role in the decision to drop charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. 

Speaking in an interview with NBC 5, Foxx said she decided to recuse herself from the case a week before charges were filed so she could “ensure the public that I was operating transparently and clearly.” 

“I did not want, as this investigation changed, for there to be any question about my impartiality so I removed myself,” she said while echoing earlier statements from her office that the decision to drop charges was not uncommon in disorderly conduct cases. 

Foxx recused herself from the case in February, with documents obtained earlier this month via Freedom of Information Act request showing that Foxx had asked Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI. The documents also showed correspondence between Foxx, an unknown person and Tina Tchen, a one-time assistant to former President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama.

Prosecutor Details Decision to Drop Smollett Charges

[CHI-NATL] Prosecutor Details Decision to Drop Smollett Charges

“It was not unusual for me to talk to a victim in a case,” she said. “At the time that I engaged with this family member, Mr. Smollett was a victim.”

First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, who handled the case, said Tuesday that had nothing to do with the decision to drop charges, however.

“There has been no outside, undo, inappropriate influence on this case what so ever,” he said. 

Foxx’s office said it believes dropping all criminal charges against Smollett was a “just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” but noted they “did not exonerate” the actor. 

“In the last two years, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has referred more than 5,700 cases for alternative prosecution. This is not a new or unusual practice,” the office said in a statement. “An alternative disposition does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities with the case or the evidence. We stand behind the Chicago Police Department’s investigation and our decision to approve charges in this case. We did not exonerate Mr. Smollett. The charges were dropped in return for Mr. Smollett’s agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago.”

In a later interview, Magats said the decision followed a look at the offiice’s resources, saying “our number priority is violent crime.”

All Charges Dropped Against ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett

[NATL] All Charges Dropped Against 'Empire' Star Jussie Smollett

He added that Smollett was “not a victim of a hate crime” and had already served two days of community service.  

The decision comes after a nearly two-month saga in the case. 

“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” Smollett said outside the courtroom Tuesday. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I was accused of.”

The Chicago Police Department said it was not notified of the prosecution’s decision to drop charges and found out about the news during a graduation ceremony for recruits. 

“It’s a punch in the gut. Is absolutely a punch in the gut,” said Commander Ed Wodnicki. “We worked closely throughout our three-week investigation to get to the point where we arrested the offender. For the state’s attorney at this point to dismiss charges without discussing this with us at all is just shocking.” 

Police said they were “prepared for trial” and have a “rock solid case.” 

WATCH: Jussie Smollett Speaks After Charges Dropped

[NATL-CHI] WATCH: Jussie Smollett Speaks After Charges Dropped

“We have overwhelming evidence,” Wodnicki said, calling the move a “slap in our face.” 

A visibly angry Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the decision a “whitewash of justice.”

“Where is the accountability in the system?” Emanuel said during a press conference. “You cannot have, because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else.”  

Meanwhile, Smollett’s family said in a statement the actor is “an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared.”  

Smollett reported the alleged attack to police on Jan. 29, claiming to have been beaten by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him, according to the indictment.

Initially investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, Chicago police said new information “shifted” their approach to the case, leading them to allege that Smollett orchestrated the assault by hiring two brothers who worked on “Empire” to execute it.

Smollett was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report, with Chicago police alleging that he staged the hate crime attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”

A Cook County grand jury later indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts, which he pleaded not guilty to.  

The lawyer for the brothers, Obabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, previously said the pair had evidence backing their claim that he orchestrated the attack. Smollett’s lawyers said “misinformation” had been reported in the case and said they planned to prove a lack of evidence in the case.

A representative for the brothers’ legal team said their attorneys were reviewing the latest developments Tuesday.

Smollett said he would “like nothing more than to just get back to work and move on with my life but make no mistakes I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”

In a statement, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said Smollett “has always maintained his innocentand we are gratified on his behalf that all charges against him have been dismissed.”

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Scarlett Johansson Gets Slimed by Colin Jost While Accepting MTV’s Generation Award – NBC4 Washington

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Scarlett Johansson got a surprise from husband Colin Jost during the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards.

The 36-year-old “Black Widow” star accepted the Generation Award with a pre-taped segment that aired during the awards ceremony on Sunday. She began her acceptance speech by thanking her co-workers from throughout her career, in addition to expressing appreciation for her fans.

“I never would have been able to continue to evolve as an actor for the last 30 years without the support and dedication of so many cast and crew members that make up the nomadic traveling-circus family that are movie sets, and the dedication and hard work of so many people that goes into making any movie continues to inspire me as a performer,” Johansson said.

“Thank you so much to my fans for riding the wave with me and for supporting my career so I can continue to have the good fortune to pursue the job that is my passion,” she continued. “I realize what an absolute gift it is to be able to have the opportunity to do what I love, and I couldn’t do it without your continued support.”

Things got wild as Johansson was in the process of introducing a previously unseen clip from “Black Widow” when Jost walked over to her in their home and poured a bowl of green slime over her head.

Scarlett Johansson’s Best Looks

“What the f—?” Johansson said.

“MTV! You got slimed,” Jost responded.

After the “Rough Night” actress explained that the 38-year-old “Saturday Night Live” star was thinking of Nickelodeon, he replied, “I’m very, very sorry.”

She fired back, “Just get a towel,” and then wouldn’t let him attempt to dab her face with it.

In introducing the star prior to the segment, Billy Porter quipped, “She’s the only Oscar nominee I know who can bench press more than Chris Hemsworth and look hotter doing it.”

Earlier this month, a press release announced Johansson would receive the award.

“The highly coveted ‘Generation Award’ celebrates beloved actors whose diverse contributions to both film and television have turned them into household names,” the statement said in part.

Previous recipients include Dwayne Johnson, Reese Witherspoon, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise, Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr.

Prior to the Generation Award, Johansson had been nominated for six MTV Movie & TV Awards prizes over the years. She nabbed the golden popcorn in 2013 for “Best Fight” for “The Avengers.”

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NowThis Editor Versha Sharma to Take Over at Teen Vogue After Controversy Over Previous Pick – NBC4 Washington

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Teen Vogue has chosen Versha Sharma, a top editor at NowThis, to replace Alexi McCammond as editor-in-chief after a swirl of controversy over McCammond’s past anti-Asian tweets.

Sharma takes over May 24 at the digital-only publication after McCammond and the Condé Nast title parted ways before her appointment took effect.

“I am incredibly excited and grateful for this awesome opportunity,” Sharma tweeted of Monday’s announcement.

Anna Wintour, the global editorial director of Vogue and chief content officer for Condé Nast, said in a statement that Sharma is a “natural leader” with a “global perspective and deep understanding of local trends and issues — from politics and activism to culture and fashion.”

Sharma was named managing editor of NowThis, a digital news site, in 2015. In 2012, she covered the U.S. presidential election for MSNBC.com. She is the recipient of an Edward R. Murrow award with the NowThis Reports team for a short documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and she’s on the board of directors of the Online News Association.

The daughter of Indian immigrants, Sharma grew up in Louisiana and lives in New York.

McCammond, who is Black, was tapped in March at age 27 as the incoming editor in chief to replace Lindsay Peoples Wagner, but derogatory tweets from when she was a teenager and college student in 2011 caused a backlash after the appointment was announced.

Sharma said in the statement issued by Teen Vogue that she has long admired the magazine for “building and fostering a community of young people who want to change the world.”

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John Mulaney and Wife Anna Marie Tendler Break Up After 6 Years of Marriage – NBC4 Washington

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After more than six years of marriage, comedian John Mulaney and wife Anna Marie Tendler are splitting up.

Individual reps for each party confirmed the news in a statement to Page Six on Monday. E! News has reached out to reps for comment.

“I am heartbroken that John has decided to end our marriage,” Tendler expressed through her spokesperson. “I wish him support and success as he continues his recovery.”

A spokesperson for Mulaney also confirmed the news of the divorce to the outlet and added, “John will not have any further comment as he continues to focus on his recovery and getting back to work.”

The “Big Mouth” actor and accomplished artist tied the knot in July 2014 in Boiceville, New York. Friend and “Schitt’s Creek” actor Dan Levy served as the couple’s officiant at their wedding.

The 38-year-old comedian completed a stint in rehab in December 2020, where he stayed for 60 days to treat issues relating to cocaine and alcohol addiction. He moved to outpatient care in February 2021.

When Comedians Get Serious

Mulaney has been open when it comes to discussing his struggles with addiction, most notably in a 2019 interview with Esquire.

“I drank for attention,” he shared with the magazine. “I was really outgoing, and then at twelve, I wasn’t. I didn’t know how to act. And then I was drinking, and I was hilarious again.”

The “Saturday Night Live” alum is set to officially return to work on the comedy circuit after completing outpatient care — booking four mid-May shows at the New York City venue City Winery. Tickets for those shows are sold out.

Tendler, for her part, is pursuing a Master of Arts degree from NYU Steinhardt in fashion and textile studies.

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Los Angeles Lakers Nine-Part Docuseries Coming to Hulu in 2022 – NBC4 Washington

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Los Angeles Lakers Nine-Part Docuseries Coming to Hulu in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Los Angeles Lakers are getting their own version of “The Last Dance.”

A nine-part docuseries on the Lakers will be coming to Hulu in 2022, the team announced on Monday. Unlike ESPN’s highly popular “The Last Dance” — which centered around Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls — this series will detail the last four decades of the Lakers. That includes everything from Jerry Buss purchasing the organization, to Magic Johnson and the “Showtime” Lakers, to the Shaq-and-Kobe dynasty, to LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the team to its latest championship last season.

Those are some rather compelling Hollywood storylines.

The series will include new interviews with more than 35 members of the Lakers organization, including Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as never-before-seen interviews with the late Jerry Buss. It will be directed by Antoine Fuqua, whose Muhammad Ali documentary “What’s My Name?” won a Sports Emmy for outstanding long documentary.  

“When Dr. Buss bought the Lakers in 1979, he sat alone at center court of the Forum and thought of all the possibilities,” Lakers CEO Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “But even in his wildest dreams, my father could not have imagined what the next decades would bring for our organization, our league and our city of Los Angeles. I am thrilled that the true story of the Lakers will finally be shared with the world — and that we are in such capable hands with Hulu and Antoine, a director whose storytelling I’ve admired for years.”

The 1980s Lakers will also be the subject of a drama series on HBO, with a cast that includes John C. Reilly as Jerry Buss, Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson and Sally Field as Jessie Buss.

Mike Gavin contributed to this story

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Miss Mexico Andrea Meza Crowned Miss Universe 2021 – NBC4 Washington

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And we have a new Miss Universe.

After more than a year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Miss Universe competition was finally held Sunday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Mario Lopez and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, who won the crown in 2012, co-hosted the show, which featured a special performance by Luis Fonsi.

Taking home the ultimate crown this year was Miss Mexico Andrea Meza, who wowed the selection community with her beauty and brains.

During the final statement round, Miss Mexico was asked to address the topic of changing beauty standards.

“We live in a society that more and more is more advanced and as we have advanced as a society, we have advanced with stereotypes,” she shared via translator. “Nowadays, beauty is not only the way we look. For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirits, but in our hearts and the way we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you that you are not valuable.”

And just minutes before, Miss Mexico also faced the final question round where she was asked to share how she would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miss Universe 2021: Swimsuit Competition

“I believe there is not a perfect way to handle this hard situation such as COVID-19,” she said. “However, I believe that what I would have done, was create the lockdown even before everything was that big because we lost so many lives and we cannot afford that. We have to take care of our people. That’s why I would have taken care of them since the beginning.”

Before the show, Paula M. Shugart, who serves as the president of the Miss Universe Organization, addressed the pandemic and how the pageant was staying safe.

“We have spent months planning and preparing safety precautions to develop this edition of Miss Universe – one that will be memorable, special and totally innovative,” she said in a statement.

Beauty queens from 74 countries and territories competed in the pageant, however just 21 contestants advanced to the final round. After first competing in the swimsuit contest, which you can see photos from here, 10 moved on to the evening gown competition. Five contestants were selected to participate in the question and answer round.

The last time the Miss Universe pageant was held was in 2019, when Miss South Africa, aka Zozibini Tunzi, took home the ultimate prize. Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson was the first runner-up and Miss Mexico Sofa Aragn was the second runner-up.

At the time, Tunzi really impressed the judges with her answer to the question, “What is the most important thing we should be teaching girls today?”

She replied, “I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It’s something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time. Not because we don’t want to, but because what society has labelled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings in the world.”

Of passing the torch to her successor, Tunzi said in a statement, “I always knew that my reign as Miss Universe would be unlike any other. While it was nothing like what I had imagined my year to be, this year has opened doors for me I could never have imagined.I am so grateful for the opportunity to connect virtually with people all over the world and elevate the causes I care most about.”

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