Lawyers for Empire actor Jussie Smollett say their client is “angered” and “further victimized” by accusations that he staged his own assault in Chicago last month.
“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,” Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, Smollett’s lawyers, told ABC News. “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.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” they continued. “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’s statement follows reports that the Chicago Police Department now suspect the actor-singer staged the alleged assault on himself.
CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz tweeted Saturday evening: “Chicago Police believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault. The sources tell CNN that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.”
Earlier Saturday, CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reported at least one of the brothers bought the thin rope at Craft Beaver hardware store the weekend of January 25th. The rope was bought at “the direction of Smollett,” and the brothers were reportedly paid $3,500 before traveling to Nigeria and promised an extra $500 upon their return, said De Mar.
The eyebrow-raising developments come after Chicago police released the two brothers due to “new evidence” obtained in their interrogations. “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,” Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police, said.
In a phone interview with New York Times reporter Sopan Deb, Guglielmi said detectives “reached out to Jussie Smollett’s attorneys and expressed interest that we need to talk to him again.”
The Osundairo brothers were arrested Wednesday by police at O’Hare Airport after returning from a trip to Nigeria to visit family, and brought in for questioning. They were seen on surveillance video in the neighborhood where the alleged incident took place.
Smollett, a gay African-American, told police that two masked men yelling racist and anti-gay insults assaulted him January 29. He told police the men doused him with an unknown chemical substance and place a rope around his neck before shouting “This is MAGA country!” and fleeing.
Smollett has contended that he has been “100% factual and consistent on every level” regarding the alleged attack. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served,” he told ESSENCE magazine in his first statement after the incident.
Meanwhile, Michael Monico, the high-powered criminal defense attorney representing longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, revealed Thursday that he is also representing Smollett, a sign the actor-singer may be gearing up for a major legal battle. Under State of Illinois law, Smollett could get between one to three years in prison for filing a false police report.