The Chicago Police department’s investigation into the alleged racist and homophobic attack on entertainer Jussie Smollett has shifted from identifying potential assailants to focusing on the Empire star himself—as police now reportedly believe Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault.
According to CNN, the two men, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were arrested Wednesday but were released without charges Friday after Chicago police revealed the discovery of “new evidence.” The two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.
Chicago detectives are now investigating the lead that the Osundairo brothers, one of whom previously appeared on “Empire” in 2015 as an extra, purchased the rope that was found around Smollett’s neck after his alleged attack at the hands of two men who assaulted him while spewing racist and homophobic slurs.
“The new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident,” a law enforcement source told Deadline Saturday.
Additionally, lawyers representing Smollett were contacted by law enforcement on Saturday, who issued a formal request for the actor to resubmit to questions by detectives. In preparation for doing so, the 36-year-old actor retained attorneys Victor P. Henderson and Todd Pugh, two Chicago-based lawyers who specialize in criminal defense.
We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2019, 10:27 a.m. EST:
Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett issued a statement Saturday denying his involvement in orchestrating his Jan. 29 assault, while noting that he is both “angered” and “devastated” by the recent developments in the case.
The following is the statement in full, courtesy of Variety:
“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. 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. 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.
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”