Law enforcement authorities in Chicago are now investigating whether Empire actor Jussie Smollett somehow staged an attack on himself last month. The two brothers who had been questioned in connection with the assault are reportedly no longer considered suspects even though they were confirmed as the men who were at the scene of the alleged January 29 attack. Sources have told numerous media outlets that the brothers said they were paid to participate in the alleged attack and that they bought the rope that was found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store nearby. “We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement released Saturday night. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Smollett’s attorneys struck back late Saturday, issuing a strongly worded statement saying that the actor was “angered and devastated” at the suggestions that he was involved in his own attack. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack,” the lawyers said. “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.” The statement goes on to note one of the men is Smollett’s personal trainer. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity,” the attorneys said.
The brothers, who are U.S. citizens of Nigerian descent aged 25 and 27, were released without charges late Friday after they had been characterized as suspects in the attack. Ola and Abel Osundairo were caught on surveillance video at the time of the purported attack. The brothers are aspiring actors and at least one of them appears to have a connection to Empire. Ola Osundairo played a prisoner on the show in season two and a photo posted on Instagram shows him (on the right) alongside the creator of the show, Lee Daniels.
So far the police isn’t releasing much information officially. When asked directly whether law enforcement authorities still view Smollett as a victim of an attack, Anthony Guglielmi, the chief spokesman for the Chicago Police, didn’t answer either way. “We have some new information that we would like to corroborate,” he told USA Today.
During an interview earlier this week, Smollett gave an account of what he described as a hate crime against him and pushed against those who have raised doubts. “I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate. And it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more,” Smollett told ABC News. “And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.”
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