Developments over the weekend “shifted the trajectory” of the investigation into the Jan. 29 attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
The actor told police last month he was attacked in Chicago in the early hours of the morning by two masked men who shouted “racial and homophobic slurs.” Police said Smollett described the assailants punching him in the face, pouring a chemical on him and wrapping a rope around his neck.
Now, Chicago police want to speak to the actor again after two brothers claimed they were paid by the actor to orchestrate the attack.
Here’s what we know as of now:
Brothers say Jussie Smollett paid them to carry out assault
After being arrested Friday, a pair of Nigerian siblings in their late 20s who reside in Chicago told detectives that they were paid to stage the attack, a person familiar with the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY.
Police also found records in the Chicago home of one of the men that showed they purchased rope from a hardware store that was used in the alleged attack, the source told USA TODAY.
The brothers were released Friday with police citing new evidence in the case. They were not charged.
Smollett, 36, who is black and gay, said he was attacked while walking home through Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. He told police masked men tied a noose around his neck and yelled, “This is MAGA country” before leaving the scene.
Smollett case: Two men released after police interrogation reveals ‘new evidence’
Police: Two brothers told investigators they were paid by Jussie Smollett to stage attack
Smollett acknowledges knowing the brothers but denies involvement
In a statement issued late Saturday, the actor’s attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, confirmed to USA TODAY that the star knew the brothers and employed one as his trainer to get him physically ready for a music video.
Smollett was “angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” his attorneys said in a statement.
Pugh and Henderson added, “He has 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.”
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