In the latest development surrounding the alleged attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett, Chicago police are now reportedly investigating whether the actor staged the entire thing.
According to multiple reports, police have released the two men arrested Friday in connection with the alleged attack and have now shifted their investigation toward Smollett, 36.
CNN reported Friday that police believe Smollett paid the two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, to stage the attack and that the actor paid for the rope that was placed around his neck. Sources told CNN that the two men were indeed present on the night of the attack last month, but that they were no longer being considered as suspects and had “completely cooperated” with police. At least one of the brothers has appeared on Empire as an extra.
Police have not officially named Smollett as a suspect, but have said they simply want to interview the star.
“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,” police said in a statement Friday. “We’ve reached out to the ‘Empire’ cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Smollett denies involvement:
Smollett’s attorneys have strongly denied the claims that the actor had any involvement. In a statement released Saturday, his lawyers said Smollett was “devastated” at the latest developments.
“He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” the statement said. “One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. 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.”
Smollett has also turned off commenting on his social media pages.
Last week, Smollett defended himself in an interview with ABC News, saying he was “pissed off” at claims he was lying about the January 29 incident. According to his initial account, two masked men attacked him around 2 a.m. in Chicago, placing a noose around his neck and pouring bleach on him. Smollett also claimed the attackers shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him, yelling, “this is MAGA country,” before fleeing the scene. Police have been investigating the attack as a hate crime as Smollett is black and openly gay.
See the interview below: