The Chicago Police Department believe Empire actor Jussie Smollett staged an attack on himself last month, according to a report.
“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,” tweeted CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz Saturday evening.
Earlier Saturday, Fox 32 Chicago’s Rafer Weigel, citing several police sources, reported Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo — the two Nigerian brothers arrested and later questioned by police about the alleged incident — purchased the rope found around the actor’s neck the night of the alleged attack at an ACE hardware store.
CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reports at least one of the brothers bought the rope at Craft Beaver hardware store the weekend of January 25th. The rope was purchased at the direction of Smollett, De Mar, citing sources, added.
NEW: Sources say at least one of the brothers purchased the rope used in Jussie Smollett incident at Crafty Beaver hardware store the weekend of Jan 25th.
— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 17, 2019
Further, the brothers were paid $3,500 before traveling to Nigeria and promised an extra $500 upon their return, according to De Mar.
The dramatic developments come after Chicago police released the two men, citing 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,” said Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
In a phone interview with New York Times reporter Sopan Deb, Guglielmi would not confirm Weigel’s report, but did say, “After we spoke to the former suspects last night, detectives reached out to Jussie Smollett’s attorneys and expressed interest that we need to talk to him again.”
On Wednesday, the Osundairo brothers were arrested by police at O’Hare Airport after returning from a trip to Nigeria to visit family, and brought in for questioning. The brothers were reportedly spotted on surveillance footage in the Chicago neighborhood where the alleged incident occurred. Gloria Schmidt, an attorney for the brothers had told CBS 2 that her clients could be charged on Friday. “They were actually detained at customs at O’Hare airport yesterday around 5:45 p.m.,” Schmidt said. “They had no idea what was going on, and they’ve been detained since then.”
“When they first learned about what happened to him they were horrified. This is someone they know. This is someone they’ve worked with, so they don’t want to see somebody go through that,” she continued.
The lawyer confirmed the Osundairos had been extras on Empire and went to the gym with Smollett.
Smollett, who is black and gay, has said two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” beat him and looped a rope around his neck early on January 29 before fleeing the scene. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him. Smollett, 36, said he was out getting food at a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago when the attack occurred.
Smollett has maintained that he has been truthful about the incident, contending his story has not changed since it took place. “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level,” the actor said in a statement to ESSENCE magazine. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
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.
In his first interview since the alleged attack, Smollett told ABC’s Good Morning America he was targeted due to his outspokenness against President Donald Trump and his administration. “I come really, really hard against 45. I come really hard against his administration. I don’t hold my tongue,” he told Robin Roberts in a sitdown that aired Friday.
The alleged encounter spurred Democrat presidential contenders and score of Hollywood celebrities to condemn the attack — for which many of those entertainment and politic figures blamed President Donald Trump.
Reacting to the alleged incident, comedian Billy Eichner tweeted: “Heartbroken and furious reading about the attack on @JussieSmollett. I want Trump and all MAGA lunatics to burn in Hell.”
“The racist and homophobic attack on Jussie Smollett is a horrific instance of the surging hostility toward minorities around the country. We must come together to eradicate all forms of bigotry and violence,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) condemned the alleged assault, describing it as an “attempted modern day lynching.”
“No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate,” she said.
In response to the alleged attack, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) had even called on the House to pass legislation that would designate lynching a federal hate crime — re-upping the bill, which passed the Senate in December.
President Trump also weighed in on the matter, calling the alleged attack “horrible,” adding that “It doesn’t get worse.”