The investigation into the alleged racist and homophobic attack against Jussie Smollett took a turn on Saturday, February 16.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed on Saturday that following the arrest and release of two Nigerian brothers who were taken into custody as persons of interest, the “case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” Police are requesting a followup interview with the Empire star, 36.
The authorities now believe Smollett paid the two men to orchestrate the assault, according to CNN.
Following the claims that he staged his attack, Smollett’s attorney released a statement to ABC 7 Chicago. “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 read in part. “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.”
The men arrested in the case were released from police custody on Friday, February 15. “Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Guglielmi said via a statement on Twitter.
Earlier that day, the Chicago Police Department confirmed to Us Weekly that two men had been arrested in the case. Hours later, Guglielmi told the Associated Press that the alleged criminals were “persons of interest” and were brought in to police custody because of “probable cause that they may have committed a crime.”
After ABC 7 Chicago called the incident a “hoax” on Thursday, February 14, Guglielmi told Us that Smollett is being “treated by police as a victim, not a suspect” and that there is “no evidence” that proves the attack was staged.
The Mighty Ducks alum was hospitalized on January 29 after he was allegedly attacked in the early morning hours by men who screamed “racial and homophobic slurs” at him while he was out getting food from a local Subway sandwich shop.
Smollett spoke out in an emotional Good Morning America interview with Robin Roberts on Thursday. “They called me a f—-t, they called me a n–ga. There’s no which way you cut it,” he said of his attackers. “I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative. I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.”
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