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Jussie Smollett Hoax May Have Been Concocted After Attack on Lee Daniels' Gay Cousin

2/23/2019 1:00 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Jussie Smollett might have gotten the idea to stage his own attack after Lee Daniels talked about his cousin getting assaulted because he's gay ... at least that's what some members of the "Empire" cast think.

Sources close to the "Empire" production tell TMZ ... some cast members think Jussie's gears started grinding in his head days after Lee posted a video on Instagram on January 10 calling out homophobia. In that same post, the "Empire" creator captioned it, "This past week my cousin was beat up for being gay and I am sick of hearing these stories."

Our sources say Lee then showed up to the set and shared more about the story. Everyone was visibly upset that Lee's family had gone through this horrific ordeal. The sources now say this might have been where Jussie got the idea to take matters into his own hands ... and become an LGBT hero.

The Chicago PD Superintendent says Jussie's motive was money -- he felt he was underpaid on the show. Interesting ... because Lee Daniels is the guy in charge of the cash register. 

As you know by now ... cops say Jussie's "attack" was a hoax and allege the actor paid 2 Nigerian brothers $3,500 with a personal check. Jussie's been charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.

Jussie -- who faces up to 3 years behind bars -- has already been wiped from the end of the current season.

R. Kelly I Can't 'Survive' Trial ... Everyone Hates Me!!!

2/23/2019 12:50 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

R. Kelly's maintaining his innocence despite being charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse, but he thinks he's screwed anyway ... because he's already lost in the court of public opinion.

Sources close to the singer tell TMZ ... he believes it will be impossible for him to get a fair trial in the aftermath of Lifetime's docuseries, "Surviving R. Kelly," and nonstop media coverage -- especially in Chicago.

As one source put it ... "There isn't a person in Cook County who hasn't heard all the hateful things said about him."

We're told R. Kelly believes ... even if he presents evidence proving his innocence, the jury will still find him guilty. Our sources say he's moved on from panic attacks and has been in a depressed meltdown for days.

As we reported ... Cook County prosecutors hit R. Kelly with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse Friday morning. There are a total of 4 alleged victims, 3 of whom were between the ages of 13 to 16. 

Attorney Michael Avenatti also released images from the video he submitted to the State's Attorney, showing what appears to be R. Kelly. He says the video shows the singer having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Avenatti blasted R. Kelly's enablers as well -- lawyers, agents, managers and others whom he says stood idly by as the singer sexually abused girls -- and says he won't stop until they're all brought to justice.

Robert Kraft Courted By Nevada Prostitutes ... It's Legal Here!!!

2/23/2019 12:40 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

If Robert Kraft would have paid for sex acts in Nevada instead of Florida (allegedly), he wouldn't be facing criminal charges ... and now one of the biggest legal brothels in the country is inviting him over. 

The women at Sheri's Ranch Brothel in Pahrump, Nevada are offering to work with Kraft -- because they don't think prostitution is a bad thing ... when it's done legally. 

The brothel says ... because the sex industry is regulated in Nevada, human trafficking isn't an issue with the working girls -- unlike in Florida. 

By the way, the Ranch spokesperson is Jeremy Lemur -- a former NFL Films staffer who was a previous member of the NFL's Diversity Council.

A rep for Sheri's also says, "Legal prostitutes are tested weekly for sexually transmitted diseases. No customer of Sheri’s Ranch has ever contracted an STD or HIV as a result of an encounter."

And, with officials in Florida saying they have surveillance footage of Kraft inside the illegal parlor -- Sheri's says there's no risk of being captured on police video at their place because "none of our patrons are committing a crime."

Sheri's is also offering prostitution consultation services to NFL owners and players -- essentially educating them on how to legally pay for sex.  

And, with an NFL team getting ready to move to Vegas in the near future, it seems like NFL teams should listen. 

Killer Mike Jussie Should Apologize ... And We Should Move On

2/23/2019 12:30 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

The Jussie Smollett "attack" has enraged millions of Americans, but for Killer Mike, it's no big deal.

We got the rapper Friday at LAX, and his take is very different from most. He says, after all, Jussie's an actor and actors assume roles. Here, he just allegedly assumed the role of a liar.

Killer Mike acknowledges Jussie screwed up but says a mea culpa will do, and after that, we all need to get a life and move on.

He's short, sweet and to the point. 

Tristan Thompson Cheating Scandal Advice ... From Nick Young

2/23/2019 12:20 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Tristan Thompson, listen up ... Nick Young is giving away one of his secrets for getting over a massive cheating scandal!!!

Of course, Swaggy P is an expert in what TT's currently going through ... the ex-Lakers star famously cheated on Iggy Azalea when the two were dating in 2016.

So, when we got Nick leaving Pretty Little Things on Wednesday night ... we asked how Tristan should deal with his latest Khloe Kardashian drama -- and Young delivered!!!

There's more ... Nick also spoke with us about Zion Williamson's shoe-blowing incident against North Carolina -- saying the play showed Z-Dub is legitimately like the Hulk!!!

But, Young says the freak play that caused a knee sprain shouldn't end Williamson's NCAA career ... and ya gotta hear why he's all for Zion returning to Duke to finish out the season. 

Dan Le Batard Nike Will Make It Up To Zion ... With $80 Million

2/23/2019 12:10 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Nike and Zion Williamson are gonna be just fine ... AFTER about 80 million apologies ... so says Dan Le Batard, who thinks ZW's shoe explosion is gonna lead to a money explosion.

Williamson's left Nike disintegrated in the first MINUTE of the much-ballyhooed matchup between Duke and North Carolina earlier this week, injuring Zion, and embarrassing the company.

It was a PR disaster for the shoe giant, prompting a company-wide freak-out, and making some wonder if they'd blown their shot at landing Zion for an endorsement deal whenever he decides to go pro.

We got Dan at LAX and he thinks things between the Swoosh and prodigy will be A-okay ... after the dollars come into play.

"When they give Zion Williamson the $80 million sneaker contract they'll try and make good by him."

Interestingly enough, Dan actually thinks Nike's #1 employee is to blame for Zion's shoe disaster, telling our guy Michael Jordan was the mastermind behind it all, and giving us reasons.

Of course, he was joking ... we think.

Bishop Don 'Magic' Juan NFL Should Go Easy On Robert Kraft ... And He Should Hit Me Up

2/23/2019 12:05 AM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Robert Kraft's bad day might have just gotten a little better because he has a brand new ally in Bishop Don "Magic" Juan, who's telling the NFL to take it easy on the embattled Pats owner.

A warrant has been issued for Kraft's arrest in Florida on charges stemming from the bust of an illegal massage parlor where authorities alleged Kraft paid for sexual favors ... which he's denied.

We ran into the Bishop, a former "gentleman of leisure" (look it up) and he says the NFL should cut Bob a break.

"He definitely got a pass."

That's not all ... the Bishop says if Kraft wants a good time he should hit him up, as long as it's in Nevada, where paying for a little loving is legal some places.

We should say, Kraft's situation is no laughing matter, he faces a misdemeanor charge down in Florida, and a potential suspension by the NFL.

Not to mention, the memes are gonna be out of control.

R. Kelly Owes Nearly $200k in Child Support ... Pay Up or Go to Jail!!!

2/22/2019 4:46 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

If R. Kelly wasn't about to surrender to police, he might end up in jail anyway ... because a judge is fed up with his failure to pay a ton of child support to his ex-wife.

A Cook County judge found R. Kelly in contempt earlier this month -- according to docs obtained by TMZ -- because he owes Drea Kelly $169,996 in support. The court says he was supposed to be paying her $20,833 per month as of January 2009 -- but he's obviously fallen off schedule in the last year.

The court order states R. Kelly needs to pay up by March 6, or he'll be locked up in County Jail. Obviously, the singer may see that as a moot point ... after he was hit with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse on Friday. As we reported, Kelly is expected to surrender Friday night.

Make no mistake, it's no longer just raining ... it's an all out downpour in his world.

For what it's worth ... he actually owes even more -- $194,045.70. That number includes interest and education and health care costs for the 3 kids he and Drea have together. 

Nicki Minaj Show Canceled After Arena Can't Handle Tech ... She Still Meets Thousands of Fans

2/22/2019 5:08 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Nicki Minaj was unable to perform after the arena she was scheduled at had some serious electrical issues ... but the rapper still made sure to leave a mark on thousands of her fans.

Nicki's show in Slovakia Friday was canceled after sources tell us the venue couldn't support the massive technical aspects of her stage. We're told transformers shut down ... and the arena suffered several outages as a result.

The tech issues didn't stop Nicki from connecting with those who came to see her. Minaj personally told the audience what was wrong ... and spent the next several hours walking around the arena and saying hello. 

Nicki still has another 20 shows on the European tour ... and she plans on figuring out a new date for her fans in Slovakia ASAP. 

Ric Flair Surprise 70th Bday Party ... Woooooooooooo!!

2/22/2019 3:27 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

What do you get for "Rolex wearin’, diamond ring wearin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ dealin’, limousine ridin’, jet flyin’ son of a gun" who's turning 70?

A BIG ASS FREAKIN' SURPRISE PARTY!!!!

That's exactly what Ric Flair's wife, Wendy, did to celebrate the Nature Boy's 70th ... and the celebrity guest list was exactly what you'd think a living, breathing legend would get.

It went down at Friday at 1818 Club Ballroom in Duluth, Georgia and huge stars like Todd Gurley, Charles Barkley, Jeff Hardy, Triple H, Evander Holyfield and Dennis Rodman were all there to wish Naich well.

CEO Custom Cakes provided the confectionery delight in the form of a gigantic custom cake shaped like a wrestling belt, while super fancy petal pushers Venus ET Fleur provided the flowers.

Wendy also had a sick robe designed modeled after Flair's favorite from back in the day.

Fantastic job, Wendy ... we're sure your birthday will be even better now, complete with a free ride on your favorite theme park attraction.

Ha ...

Tennis' Justin Gimelstob Denies Alleged Halloween Assault ... I'm Not Violent!

2/22/2019 2:29 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Justin Gimelstob -- an ex-tennis star and broadcaster -- says he did NOT beat the hell out of a man during a trick-or-treating run last Halloween ... telling TMZ Sports he's not a violent person.

As we previously reported ... Gimelstob -- a former doubles champ who's coached tennis star John Isner -- was arrested after he allegedly roughed up a man named Randall Kaplan on Oct. 31, 2018.

According to Kaplan ... Gimelstob punched him "more than 50 times" in the face and head during the alleged assault and threatened to "f**king kill" him.

Gimelstob was charged with felony battery ... but when we got him out after his latest court date in L.A. on Thursday -- he told us he's an innocent man.

"I'm not the person that's been depicted here," Gimelstob says ... adding that he's NOT a violent person.

Gimelstob is facing up to 4 years in prison AND a fine of up to $10,000. He previously pled not guilty to the charge back in December.

Justin's due back in court next week.

Gimelstob was a star in doubles matches back in the late '90s ... winning with partner Venus Williams in both the 1998 Australian Open and 1998 French Open mixed doubles tournaments.

Gimelstob -- who's become a star broadcaster in retirement -- has taken a leave of absence from his role as an analyst on the Tennis Channel while his case plays out in the court system.

Ice Cube, LL Cool J Get Billion Dollar Backing In Quest to Buy Sports TV Stations

2/22/2019 12:18 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Ice Cube and LL Cool J just got major reinforcements in the pursuit of sports TV supremacy -- we're told they just secured several BILLION dollar commitments in their push to buy a group of regional sports channels. 

As we previously reported, the rap legends are part of a powerful group -- including the BIG3 and billionaire Alex and Ani jewelry founder Carolyn Rafaelian-- looking to bid on a block of 22 regional sports channels, including the YES Network.

The channels are currently owned by Disney but the Justice Dept. is forcing the company to sell them off to break up their monopoly in sports TV (since they already own ESPN). 

Now, we're told Cube's group has backing from private equity partners -- and he met with the group earlier this week to hammer out their purchasing strategy.

In other words, they're figuring out how much they want to bid for the stations.

If Cube and LL win the bidding, we're told there's already a plan in place to run a full slate of content that caters to a younger audience because they believe there's a hole in that market. 

Stay tuned ... 

Jussie Smollett 'Fess Up if You're Guilty, We'll Support You ... Says Bishop O.C. Allen

2/22/2019 1:31 PM PST
EXCLUSIVE

Jussie Smollett needs to know he still has throngs of backers -- who will remain by his side -- IF he would just admit the crimes he's committed ... at least according to his friend, Bishop O.C. Allen.

We got the influential Bishop -- who once served on President Obama's Advisory Council -- out in Atlanta and wanted to see if he had a message for the embattled "Empire" star. 

Allen told us there is unwavering support for Smollett if he changes his tune. The Bishop says it's critical Jussie admit any wrongdoing. 

Jussie and the Bishop are tight. They joined Lee Daniels and Sen. Cory Booker for a 2016 Hillary Clinton fundraiser, which was held at Bishop Allen's ATL home. 

You know much of the "Empire" cast and crew wanted Smollett booted off the set -- and they got their wish Friday morning.

Still, Allen thinks all hope is not lost for Smollett as he faces the felony charge for filing a false police report.

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