Empire actor Jussie Smollett is refusing to be questioned by the Chicago Police Department and has hired the services of a crisis management firm amid reports he staged an attack on himself last month.
“There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today,” Anna Kavanagh, a crisis manager at MediaPros24/7 said in a statement Monday. “Any news reports suggesting otherwise are inaccurate. Smollett’s attorneys will keep an active dialogue going with Chicago police on his behalf. We have no further comment today.”
Chicago police on Sunday said they requested a follow-up interview with Smollett due to “new evidence” they obtained that “shifted” their investigation into the 36-year-old’s alleged assault on January 29. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi would not comment on reports that Smollett orchestrated the attack and that a grand jury could hear the evidence. “We’re not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we’ve gotten,” Guglielmi said.
Smollett, who is gay and black, told police that two masked men hurled racist and anti-gay slurs at him and doused him with an unknown chemical substance as he walked home from a sandwich shop at around 2:00 a.m. local time. The actor said his assailants placed a thin rope around his neck and shouted “This is MAGA country!” before running away.
In a statement to ABC News, attorneys for Smollett said their client was “angered” and “further victimized” by accusations that orchestrated the alleged assault.
“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.
Chicago police on Wednesday picked up Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo — the Nigerian brothers who are now suspected of having Smollett carried out the alleged staged attack — from O’Hare International Airport to question them about their possible involvement.
On Saturday, Fox 32 Chicago’s Rafer Weigel, citing several police sources, reported the pair purchased the rope found around the actor’s neck the night of the alleged attack at a local store. CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reports at least one of the brothers purchased the rope at Craft Beaver hardware store the weekend of January 25th. The rope was bought at the direction of Smollett, De Mar, added. Further, the brothers were compensated $3,500 and promised an another $500 later, according to De Mar.
Smollett could receive up to three years in prison if he is found to have filed a false report with the Chicago Police regarding his alleged attack.