Jussie Smollett’s Manager Claims He Heard Assault, ‘MAGA Country’ on Phone

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Jussie Smollett performs onstage at Espolòn Celebrates Day of the Dead at Academy Nightclub on November 1, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tasia Wells/Getty Images for Espolòn)
Tasia Wells/Getty Images for Espolòn

Empire actor Jussie Smollett is reportedly refusing to turn over his cell phone to law enforcement as they continue to investigate an alleged attack against him early Tuesday morning.

ABC 7 reporter Rob Elgas said Wednesday that while Chicago police confirmed Smollett and his manager Brandon Moore told investigators that they were on the phone during the attack, the call has yet to be independently verified because the actor won’t give them his cell.

Meanwhile, detectives are reviewing surveillance footage of Smollett walking to his downtown Chicago apartment, yet thus far none of the video shows him being attacked, although investigators have obtained images of people they would like to question, a police spokesman said Wednesday. A Chicago Police Department spokesperson said the gender and race of the alleged attackers are presently unknown, despite an initial TMZ report stating they were two white men wearing ski masks.

Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted two photos of the “persons of interest” Wednesday evening.

Investigators “for the most part” can confirm the route Smollett took early Tuesday when he says he was attacked along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood after visiting a sandwich shop, Guglielmi told reporters. However, there are gaps, and none of the footage shows an attack, he said — although the review is ongoing.

Smollett, who plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox television show, said the men beat him, subjected him to racist and homophobic insults, threw an “unknown chemical substance” on him and put a thin rope around his neck before fleeing. The actor alleges that the assailants shouted, “Aren’t you that faggot ‘Empire’ n***r?” at him. His manager told authorities that he heard the alleged attackers tell Smollett, “This is MAGA country.”

Guglielmi said detectives, who are investigating the allegations as a possible hate crime, have looked at hundreds of hours of surveillance video from businesses and hotels in the heavily monitored area. “We haven’t seen anybody, at this point, matching the description he gave. Nobody looks menacing, and we didn’t find a container anywhere,” he said, referring to a container for the liquid that the actor said was thrown at him.

After the attack, Smollett returned to his apartment, and his manager called police from there about 40 minutes later, according to police. When officers arrived, the actor had cuts and scrapes on his face and the rope around his neck that he said had been put there by his assailant.

The FBI is reportedly investigating a threatening letter targeting Smollett that was sent last week to the Fox studio in Chicago where Empire is filmed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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