Empire star Jussie Smollett has furiously denied paying two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to attack him and says he is ‘angered and devastated’ after investigators in Chicago claimed he orchestrated his own assault.
Smollett’s attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, told Entertainment Weekly: ‘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.’
His lawyers now say that one of men was Smollett’s personal trainer for a music video. They added: ‘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.’
The stunning turn of events saw the two men involved in the alleged hoax now fully cooperating with law enforcement, CNN reported Saturday.
On January 29, two men ‘yelled out racial and homophobic slurs’ while attacking Smollett, the actor told police.
One of the assailants tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him, Smollett claimed at the time.
Jussie Smollett makes his first public appearance earlier this month following the alleged attack. He furiously denied paying two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to assault him
THE FULL STATEMENT FROM JUSSIE SMOLLETT’S ATTORNEYS
Lawyers Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson issued the following statement on Jussie’s behalf on Saturday night: ‘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.’
During the attack, the assailants yelled ‘Empire f****t’ and ‘Empire n*****,’ the actor has long maintained.
That narrative, however, is now under serious scrutiny by investigators, who reportedly have evidence that Smollett directed his ‘attackers’ to buy the rope used in the ‘assault’ at a local hardware store.
Documents prove two Nigerian brothers who work as extras on the highly rated Fox drama bought the rope which was found around Smollett’s neck at Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in Chicago.
The brothers made the purchase on the weekend of January 25.
They also bought two red plain hats that they wore during the alleged attack, according to sources close to the investigation.
Police believe that the red hats were purchased at a local beauty supply store in the Uptown section of Chicago.
‘We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,’ Chicago Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said.
‘We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.’
Chicago police are now ‘eager to speak to Jussie Smollett’ in light of the new information that was uncovered, according to ABC News.
‘We have been in touch with Smollett’s attorneys,’ a Chicago Police Department spokesperson said.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR ABOUT THE JUSSIE SMOLLETT CASE
Here is what we know so far about the alleged attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett and the ongoing investigation by the Chicago Police Department.
Since CPD is not commenting citing the ongoing probe, the public has been left to rely on Smollett’s version of events.
On January 29, Smollett was allegedly assaulted by two men at around 2am.
Reports indicated that he was allegedly beaten up and had a noose tied around his neck.
The alleged assault took place as Smollett was on his way home after buying a sandwich at a local Subway.
Initial reports indicated that the attackers were ‘white men’ who yelled ‘This is MAGA country’ while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and pouring bleach on him.
But during an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, Smollett denied that his assailants wore red MAGA hats.
Smollett also told Roberts that contrary to reports, his ribs were not broken as a result of the incident.
After the assault, some began to wonder if Smollett concocted the entire story.
That there were those who doubted Smollett stems from a number of factors.
A Chicago Police spokesperson said on the day after the alleged attack that investigators were unable to find evidence of an assault.
The only surveillance camera at the scene was pointed in the opposite direction.
Smollett also phoned the police from his apartment rather than from the scene.
When Smollett initially refused investigators’ request to hand over his phone, this raised eyebrows.
Smollett then handed over his phone records, but they were redacted in order to protect the privacy of people not involved in the attack.
On Friday, police arrested two Nigerian men in the connection with the attack – only to have them released later.
Since both men are black, this has led some to be suspicious of Smollett’s claim that this was a hate crime.
Information emerged later on showing that Smollett knew the two men who were arrested since they were extras on Empire.
A theory floating around on social media stated that Smollett staged the attack because his character was being written off Empire.
But the show’s producers and writers quickly refuted that claim.