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Wolves Prove Resilient, but Proposal Could Curtail Expansion 

A proposal to strip gray wolves of their remaining federal protections could curtail their rapid expansion across vast swaths of the U.S. West and Great Lakes, yet the predators already are proving to be resilient in states where hunting and trapping occur. 

 

Thursday’s Interior Department proposal to remove threatened and endangered species protections for wolves would end a decades-long restoration effort that saw a remarkable turnaround for an animal once nearly exterminated across the Lower 48 states. Now more than 6,000 gray wolves live in portions of nine states. 

 

Authority over wolves would revert to state wildlife agencies with no obligation to maintain current numbers. Critics say that amounts to a death sentence for thousands of the animals, shrinking well-established populations and preventing wanderers from carving out new territory. 

 

The track record suggests otherwise in parts of the Northern Rockies, where wolf numbers have not noticeably flagged in the face of aggressive hunting and trapping. 

 

When legal wolf harvests began in Montana and Idaho in 2009, wildlife advocates and some scientists argued their numbers would plummet. 

 

Hunters and trappers have since killed almost 4,400 wolves in the two states, according to data from state wildlife agencies obtained by The Associated Press. About 1,500 more were killed by government wildlife agents and property owners following attacks on livestock and similar conflicts. 

​Bounced back

 

But wolves are such prolific breeders that after each hunting season, their numbers bounced back the next spring. That continued even as wildlife regulators loosened trapping restrictions and allowed individual hunters and trappers to harvest multiple animals. 

 

The wolf populations for the two states hovered at around 1,700 animals combined from 2009 through the beginning of 2016, the most recent year with figures from both states. 

 

“We’re almost a decade into hunting and trapping and we still have a population that is robust and well-distributed. It can be done well,” said Bob Inman, a biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

 

Wildlife researcher Scott Creel at Montana State University said his examination of population data suggests sustained high harvest rates are pushing wolves near a “tipping point” that would drive the species into decline. State officials said they see no cause for concern and expect the population size to fluctuate. 

 

Montana’s wolf numbers dipped from their 2013 peak over the last several years before increasing in 2017, the data show.  

  

Meanwhile, packs from the Northern Rockies have spread into neighboring Oregon and Washington, where they had been absent for decades. A small number have also taken up residence in California. 

 

Collette Adkins, a Minnesota-based senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, acknowledged dropping federal protections would not drive wolves to extinction, despite earlier saying the proposal “was a death sentence for gray wolves across the country.” 

​Threat to recovery seen

 

But she said their recovery would “come to a screeching halt” as hunting and trapping are allowed in more states. That would put the species in a tenuous position in the Pacific Northwest and likely rule out its return to historic ranges, such as Colorado’s southern Rockies and the Adirondacks in the Northeast, she said. 

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say their goal was to prevent extinction, not restore wolves everywhere they once roamed. State officials say even without federal protection, wolves won’t return to their imperiled status of the early 20th century because modern hunting regulations focus on managing animals, not exterminating them. 

 

“The only way wolves were removed from the Lower 48 was using techniques we don’t use anymore — poisons,” said Toby Boudreau, wildlife bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. 

 

Endangered Species Act protections were given to the animals in the 1970s except in Alaska, where the population was never considered in danger. States that designate the wolf as threatened or endangered under their own laws and regulations include California, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington. 

 

David Mech, a U.S. Geological Survey wolf expert, said the species likely would continue to grow and expand in the contiguous U.S. after losing its endangered and protected status, albeit more slowly. 

 

Wolves can and will live any place people tolerate them, Mech said. He pointed to studies that suggest the southern Rockies could host up to 1,000 wolves, with vast areas of additional habitat in the heartland region from Texas to North Dakota. 

 

The Interior Department will make a final decision on its proposal after a public comment period that runs through May 14.  

  

The most immediate changes could come for more than 4,000 wolves in the Western Great Lakes. Wisconsin law requires its wolf hunts to resume if the state regains authority. Wildlife officials would make the call in Michigan and Minnesota. 

 

Hunting, trapping or both were allowed in the region at various times between 2012 and 2014 before a federal judge shut them down by returning wolves to the endangered species list. State survey data for the Western Great Lakes showed at least modest wolf declines during the period. 

​Fewer deer

 

Wolf advocates attributed the drop in Minnesota to hunting and trapping. Dan Stark of the state Department of Natural Resources said a more likely explanation was a 30 percent decline in deer, the wolf’s primary prey. Either way, wildlife managers say the populations in all three states remained strong. 

 

If hunting is allowed, debate is likely over whether to maintain wolf numbers or seek cutbacks. Some farmers hope for a smaller population, which they believe would reduce attacks that have killed hundreds of cows and sheep. 

 

Montana wildlife officials credit a more aggressive effort to kill problem wolves with a sharp decline in livestock attacks since 2009. However, some scientists say hunting and trapping makes livestock a more tempting target for wolves because it disrupts the pack cohesion needed to bring down swift or bulky prey like deer, elk and moose. 

 

Some Wisconsin groups are pushing to reduce their wolf population to 350 from about 900. 

 

“If we’d kept them at that number, I think almost all livestock conflicts would have been gone,” said Mark Liebaert, a sixth-generation beef producer who said he’s considered quitting because of wolf kills and harassment.  

  

But Ethan Lane of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said his organization’s priority is enabling farmers and ranchers to protect their herds. Making deep cuts in wolf numbers, he said, is “just not realistic.” 

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US-Russian Crew Blasts Off to International Space Station

Russian-American crew of three has blasted off to the International Space Station, their second attempt to reach the outpost following an aborted launch in October

A Russian-American crew of three blasted off to the International Space Station early Friday, making a second attempt to reach the outpost after October’s aborted launch.

A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as planned from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:14 a.m. Friday (1914 GMT Thursday).

Their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft reached a designated orbit about nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally. They are set to dock at the space station in about six hours.

On Oct. 11, a Soyuz that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely. That accident was the first aborted crew launch for the Russian space program since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch pad explosion.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the crew on a successful launch. “So proud of Nick Hague for persevering through last October’s launch that didn’t go as planned,” he tweeted.

Speaking at a pre-launch news conference at Baikonur, the crew said they trusted the rocket and fully believed in the success of their mission.

“I’m 100 percent confident in the rocket and the spacecraft,” Hague said. “The events from October only helped to solidify that and boost confidence in the vehicle to do its job.”

The trio will join NASA’s Anne McClain, Roscosmos’ Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency who are currently on the space station. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.

When one of the four strap-on boosters for their Soyuz failed to separate properly two minutes after their launch in October, Hague and Ovchinin were jettisoned from the rocket. Their rescue capsule plunged steeply back to Earth with its lights flashing and alarms screaming, subjecting the crew to seven times the force of gravity.

Hague emphasized Wednesday that they were well-trained for the emergency.

“The nature of our profession is we spend 90-95 percent of our time practicing what to do when things go wrong,” he said. “And so we spend all that time training, running through all those scenarios. And because we do train that way, like in October when things like that happened, we were ready to do what we need to do to come out successfully.”

The October failure was the first aborted launch for the Russian space program in 35 years and only the third in history. Each time, the rocket’s automatic rescue system kept the crew safe.

A Russian investigation attributed October’s launch failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket’s final assembly. The next crew launch to the space station in December went on without a hitch.

Ovchinin recalled that they felt “more annoyed than stressed” when their rescue capsule touched down in the barren steppes of Kazakhstan. “It was disappointing and a bit frustrating that we didn’t make it to the International Space Station,” he said.

NASA and Roscosmos praised the crew’s valor and composure in the aborted launch and promised to quickly give them a second chance into space.

“We don’t accept the risk blindly, we have mitigated it as much as we can, and we always plan to be successful,” Hague said.

Ovchinin stressed that the aborted launch in October was an “interesting and very useful experience” that “proved the reliability of the emergency rescue system.”

Since the 2011 retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet, Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft have been the only vehicles that can ferry crews to the space station.

NASA, however, is counting on SpaceX and Boeing to start launching astronauts this year. The SpaceX ship Dragon returned Friday from a six-day unmanned demonstration flight to the space station and could take astronauts there on its next flight as early as this summer.

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Lori Loughlin Loses Starring Roles on Hallmark Channel

The Hallmark Channel cut ties Thursday with favored star Lori Loughlin, a day after her arrest in a college admissions scam put the family-friendly network and extended Hallmark brand in uncomfortable proximity to a headline-grabbing scandal.

“We are saddened by the recent allegations surrounding the college admissions process,” Hallmark Cards Inc., parent company of the Crown Media Family Networks umbrella group that includes the Hallmark Channel, said in a statement.

“We are no longer working with Lori Loughlin” and have stopped development of all productions with the actress for Crown Media channels, the statement said.

The company initially took a wait-and-see approach after a federal investigation of the scam involving more than 30 parents, many of them prominent, was revealed Tuesday. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying bribes to gain their daughters’ college admissions.

Loughlin’s career and the Hallmark Channel were deeply intertwined. She’s been among its so-called “Christmas queens” who topline a slate of popular holiday movies, and also starred in the ongoing “Garage Sale Mysteries” movies and the series When Calls the Heart.

“It’s a feel-good, family values-type channel, and obviously scandal is the opposite of that,” said Atlanta-based market strategist Laura Ries.

There was more at stake than image. When Calls the Heart tapes in Canada, and a judge ordered Loughlin’s passport to be surrendered in December after grudgingly allowing her to cross the border for work until then.

Loughlin has not yet entered a plea in the case, and her attorney declined comment Wednesday after her first appearance in a Los Angeles federal court. Loughlin’s publicist declined comment Thursday on Hallmark’s decision to drop her.

The actress isn’t exclusive to Hallmark. She’s reprised her role as Aunt Becky for Netflix’s Fuller House reboot of the popular series that originated in 1987 on ABC. But the sitcom represents a fraction of the streamer’s flood of programs, while Loughlin has occupied an increasing amount of Hallmark real estate since she starred in Meet My Mom in 2010.

She’s proved a reliable performer. Her 2018 holiday movie, Homegrown Christmas, was the most-watched non-sports cable program the week it aired. In February, the season six premiere of When Calls the Heart was watched by a series-best 2.5 million viewers, putting it behind only The Walking Dead in Sunday night cable dramas.

“They definitely have a formula and you do have to follow the formula. And if you don’t, they rein you back in and say, ‘You have to follow. This is our format, this is what we do,”‘ Loughlin said of the Christmas movies last year in an interview with The Associated Press.

She said the rigidity chafes a bit but called the result “heartwarming,” adding, “You go to bed and you don’t have any bad dreams.”

The New York City native with a sunny smile proved a good fit for the channel that specializes in romantic dramas and comedies with a wholesome touch, while her media-friendly personality allowed her to expertly tout her shows on her website and in TV appearances.

Then came Tuesday’s bombshell government allegation that Loughlin and her husband were among more than 30 parents who paid a consultant to ensure their offspring’s place in college with bribes and falsified exams. Prosecutors allege the couple paid $500,000 to have their daughters labeled as crew-team recruits at the University of Southern California, although neither is a rower.

Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, American Crime) was among the other prominent parents, including a lawyer, doctor and hedge fund manager, indicted in the scam.

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Facebook Product Chief Cox to Leave in Latest Executive Exit

Facebook Inc said on Thursday Chief Product Officer Chris Cox will leave the social media network after 13 years, adding to a recent string of high-profile exits.

Also departing is WhatsApp Vice President Chris Daniels, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post. The company does not immediately plan to appoint anyone to fill Cox’s role in the near term, he said.

Cox, among the first Facebook hires, gained oversight of WhatsApp and Instagram following the exits of their founders. In September, Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger resigned as chief executive officer and chief technical officer of the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.

Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp, left in April last year.

“As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network. …This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through,” Cox said in a Facebook post.

Will Cathcart, vice president of product management, will now lead WhatsApp and Head of Video, Games and Monetization Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app, Zuckerberg said.

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US General: Google’s Work in China Benefiting China’s Military

The United States’ top general said on Thursday that the Chinese military was benefiting from the work Alphabet Inc’s Google was doing in China, where the technology giant has long sought to have a bigger presence.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit,” he said.

“Frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is, it is more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Last year Google said it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.

In June, Google said it would not renew a contract to help the U.S. military analyze aerial drone imagery when it expires, as the company sought to defuse an internal uproar over the deal.

At the same time, Google said it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China, though it is continuing to study the idea.

During the hearing, Republican Senator Josh Hawley sharply criticized the tech company, referring to it as “a supposedly American company.”

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market.

Asked about Dunford’s comments, Google referred to previous statements.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has previously said the company has invested in China for years and plans to continue to do so, but that the company also was continuing to work with the U.S. government on projects in health care, cybersecurity and other fields.

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WHO Aims to End DRC Ebola Outbreak in 6 Months

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief says the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) can be brought to an end in six months, if everything goes as planned.  Latest figures from the DRC Ministry of Health put the number of Ebola cases at 927, including 584 deaths.

 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that any of the challenges that lie ahead could undo the gains achieved so far in controlling the spread of the Ebola virus.

 

But he said enough progress has been made to believe the Ebola outbreak in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces can be shut down in six months’ time.

 

He said transmission of the Ebola virus has been stopped in Beni, Mangina, Komanda, and Oicha in North Kivu province.

 

“It has not spread to other parts of the country, and it has not spread to neighboring countries. I think anybody can agree that this is a fact and something that we can say is good news. And the second is not only that it is not spreading, it is actually contracting,” Tedros said.

 

WHO reports the virus has been contained in 11 of the 28 communities affected by Ebola. Since January, it said the number of new cases reported every week has dropped by half from an average of 50 cases to 25.

 

Nevertheless, Tedros said challenges remain. He said security is the No. 1 concern, with armed groups posing a serious threat in Katwa and Butembo, the current epicenters of the disease.

 

Three weeks ago, treatment centers in Katwa and Butembo were attacked, and the facility in Butembo was attacked again last week while the WHO chief was visiting the region.

 

Tedros said another big challenge is that of gaining the trust of communities. They often are suspicious of the demands made by health workers that go against their traditional practices.

 

The WHO chief said six months is a feasible goal for ending the Ebola outbreak. However, he added WHO is prepared for any eventuality, and if the goal is missed, the agency will continue its work in the region for as long as it takes to end the Ebola epidemic.

 

 

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Brexit: What Now?

Veteran Conservative lawmaker Nigel Evans has been in Britain’s House of Commons for more than a quarter-of-a-century and, like most of his parliamentary colleagues, is stunned at the turn of Brexit events.

“I got elected in 1992 and I don’t know if I have known any time more uncertain than now,” he told VOA.

He’s flummoxed at what the next move should be for a Conservative government that has lost control of the Brexit process.

As a committed Brexiter, he fears Britain will end up staying in the European Union because of an impasse in the Commons that has seen the ruling Conservative government repeatedly rebuffed by lawmakers, including by a third of its own MPs, in a series of historic votes without precedent for the storied House of Commons.

Parliament is not alone in being hopelessly divided: Theresa May’s Cabinet is, too, with the British prime minister lurching between pro-EU rebel ministers and their pro-Brexit counterparts, trying to resuscitate a government that appears to be in terminal decline.

Divorce delayed

More than 20 ministers have resigned in the past two years — and at least another half-dozen are on the cusp of quitting. Midweek another minister resigned and four declined to vote with their own government — an unprecedented defiance left unpunished.

Britain’s newspaper headline writers are running out of superlatives and metaphors to describe the political havoc. “We’re becoming the laughing stock of the World,” fumes Andrew Pierce, the Daily Mail’s associate editor, in College Green, the patch of grass outside parliament which has become a media encampment of tents, wires and cameras besieged by chanting, dueling placard-waving protesters.

Britain was due to exit the EU in 16 days’ time, on March 29.

On Wednesday, the House of Commons voted against Britain exiting the EU without a deal — in effect delaying Brexit until further notice. That followed Tuesday’s crushing parliamentary defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement — the second time pro-EU and hardline pro-Brexit lawmakers have combined to reject it. Lawmakers Thursday are expected to pass a measure seeking formally to delay Brexit, at least to June 30. EU leaders are divided about accepting a request for delay.

Donald Tusk, the president of the EU Council, tweeted Thursday: “I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its #Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”

The Remainers hope to either block Brexit altogether or at least steer it in a gentler direction with Britain still closely aligned although not a member of its political institutions. Hardline Brexiters want a no-nonsense sharp break with the EU, ready to accept the economic damage to Britain that will wreak, at least in the medium term.

That Evans feels unable to predict what happens next is instructive. He is no junior lawmaker, but a so-called “Tory grandee”, and he helps to direct the 1922 Committee, of which all backbench Conservative lawmakers are members.

When the bosses of the 1922 Committee tell a Conservative leader to quit, their word has the force of the Lord High Executioner. The last time the 22, as its nicknamed, deposed a party leader was in 2003, ousting one of Theresa May’s predecessors for losing a general election.

Are they close to giving May the push now? Evans is guarded but makes little secret he thinks the time is close at hand. “Her authority is greatly weakened,” he says grimly.

Replacing May

Pro-Brexit Conservative bloggers and columnists are in vituperative mood, blaming May for mishandling the negotiations with the EU and, from their viewpoint, giving too much ground to Brussels. Gridlock has been the result, they say.

“I can see no scenario where she is the answer for taking the country forward. She should by rights go now. At some point in the next two or three weeks it will even dawn on Mrs. May that it is time to go,” Conservative blogger Iain Dale tells VOA.

WATCH:  British Leadership Change Possible in Wake of Brexit Chaos

Then what?

The vultures are circling. Half-a-dozen would-be replacements from inside May’s Cabinet have in effect been auditioning already for the job, delivering speeches carving out their vision for the country. Some contenders have advanced plans, including printing up campaign material for what they expect is an inevitable leadership election.

A Conservative grassroots favorite, Boris Johnson, the former foreign minister, has had a modern makeover and dispensed with his trademark tousle-haired slapdash look and is now sporting a stylish boyband haircut.

But it is not clear that replacing Theresa May will solve anything or break the political impasse, which is why the 1922 Committee has stayed its hand.

There is no obvious unity candidate to succeed her. A new leader will face the same splits inside the Conservative party between Remainers, Brexiters and the those who favor a so-called soft Brexit modeled on Norway’s relationship with the EU, which would see Britain remain in the bloc’s single market and customs union as well as accept freedom of movement.

And the deadlocked parliamentary arithmetic will remain the same.

Another try

In a final throw of the dice, May is planning to bring her contentious deal back to the Commons for a third time, hoping that she will prevail by sheer persistence. It is the continuation of her strategy of brinkmanship — to run the clock down and force Conservative Brexiters and a handful of allied Northern Irish lawmakers to give in, prompted to do so by the fear that otherwise Britain might never leave the EU in any form.

It is not clear that the pro-EU Speaker of the House, John Bercow, will allow her to do so — under parliamentary rules a government is not meant to keep asking the House to vote repeatedly on the same measure. “If she can pull it off, it will be the political equivalent of Lazarus rising from the dead,” admits a Downing Street official.

Some believe she has a chance of succeeding in this high-stakes game of chicken. Evans does not think so. “For some of the rebels it would be better to stay in the EU than accept this deal, which would have us at the beck and call of Brussels without any power,” he says. Another key Brexiter, Steve Barclay, says he and many of his colleagues will keep voting the deal down “whatever the pressure we’re put under.”

Keeping calm and carrying on?

Beyond Westminster, there is fear, exasperation and anger. And clear Brexit fatigue. BBC Radio Five Live has seen the volume of Brexit-related call-ins tail off recently. There are signs, according to some opinion polls, that the mood of the country may have shifted slightly in favor of remaining in the EU, suggesting that a second referendum would deliver a narrow win for Remain.

As yet there is no majority in the House of Commons for holding a re-run referendum. Nor are lawmakers keen on holding a snap general election, for fear that might result in an equally deadlocked parliament afterwards.

Business leaders were already fuming at all the Brexit uncertainty before this week’s upheaval. “Enough is enough. A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, a major business association.

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Empire’ Actor Smollett Pleads Not Guilty to Lying About Chicago Attack

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in a Chicago court on Thursday to new charges that he falsely reported to police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault on a city street.

Wearing a navy suit and dress coat, Smollett, 36, appeared serious and quiet standing next to his attorneys as Cook County Circuit Court Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to his case.

In a 16-count indictment returned by a grand jury last Thursday, Smollett, who is black, openly gay and plays a gay musician on Fox’s hip-hop drama, was charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct alleging he gave false accounts of an attack on him to police investigators.

 

Each count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Smollett was previously charged last month with felony disorderly conduct for making a false report after he told police he was attacked in January by masked supporters of President Donald Trump who beat him, slung a noose round his neck and poured a liquid chemical on him while shouting racist and homophobic slurs.

Detectives investigated the incident as a hate crime but local news outlets cited police sources saying it was believed to be a hoax.

The Chicago Police Department is investigating how information about the alleged attack was leaked to journalists.

Fox cut Smollett’s character in “Empire” after he was arrested.

According to prosecutors, Smollett wrote a $3,500 check to two brothers and gave them $100 to buy the rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps used in the supposed Jan. 29 attack.

Police said Smollett hoped the incident would advance his career and secure him a higher salary.

Police initially arrested the brothers on Feb. 13, after they were recognized from surveillance footage from near the scene of the alleged attack. One had appeared with Smollett on “Empire,” police and their lawyer said. Prosecutors said one had supplied Smollett with “designer drugs” in the past.

The brothers confessed to the plot, police said. They became cooperating witnesses and were released without charges.

After the alleged attack, Smollett received support on social media, including from celebrities and Democratic presidential candidates. Others were skeptical of the incident, which Smollett said occurred at around 2 a.m. on a city street during one of the coldest weeks in recent history.

Outside the courthouse on Thursday, about a dozen supporters gathered with signs, chanting that his prosecution was unjust.

In a “Good Morning America” interview last month, Smollett said he was angry some people questioned his story and suggested racial bias may be behind the disbelief.

 

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