UPDATED: 9:00 PM Sat. Feb 16 — CHICAGO, Illinois- Multiple media outlets including CNN and the Chicago Tribune are reporting Saturday evening that Chicago Police Detectives believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the alleged assault. Chicago Police had arrested two brothers from Nigeria Wednesday in connection with the alleged attack on the Empire actor on January 29, which Smollett had characterized as racist and homophobic.
According to CNN, the brothers are both aspiring actors who have posted auditions online, were released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.” The sources told the network that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.
Twelve hours after calling them “possible suspects,” police late Friday released the brothers without filing any charges, citing “new evidence” they did not disclose, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet.
Smollett told authorities he was attacked by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.
The law enforcement sources told also CNN that there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at an Ace Hardware store in Chicago.
Smollett denies paying the Nigerian pair $3,500 to attack him, saying he is ‘angered and devastated’ that investigators in Chicago claimed he set up his own assault. If guilty, he could face years in prison.
Jussie Smollett’s attorneys respond to latest media reports
Jussie Smollett’s attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson released a statement to media outlets, addressing reports that police sources are claiming that the actor may have staged the attack.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. 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 continued;
“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.
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to “unnamed” sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”
Reporting by CNN, The Chicago Tribune, and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade