Empire star Jussie Smollett has hired Michael Cohen’s high-powered criminal defense attorney, as the police investigation into the attack he reported last month took a sudden shift amid allegations of a hoax.
Attorney Michael Monico, a former federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois, revealed in a radio interview on Thursday in Chicago that he is representing Smollett.
Monico, speaking on WGN’s
It came as police in Chicago suddenly released two Nigerian extras on Smollett’s show, who had previously been described as suspects in the attack, saying that ‘new evidence’ had emerged in their interrogations that requires further detective work.
Empire star Jussie Smollett (above) has hired Michael Cohen’s high-powered criminal defense attorney, as the police investigation into the attack he reported last month took a sudden shift
Michael Monico (above) revealed in a radio interview on Thursday that he is Smollett’s lawyer
Brothers Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, 27, and Abimbola ‘Abel’ Osundairo, 25, were cut loose from police custody late on Friday. They had been held since Wednesday, after being picked up at O’Hare Airport while disembarking a flight from Nigeria.
‘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,’ Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement on Friday night.
The Osundairo brothers’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, spoke briefly to reporters after their release, hinting that Smollett’s legal future could hold difficulties.
‘There’s so many moving parts to this that will come out in time,’ Schmidt said when asked if her clients had helped Smollett stage the attack. ‘I’m going to let them tell their story when the time is right.’
Smollett made international headlines after reporting the attack on January 29, in which he said two white men assaulted him at 2am on a Chicago street, shouting vile racist and homophobic slurs.
The actor said that he fought back bravely as the two men shouted ‘this is MAGA country,’ poured bleach on him, and looped a noose around his neck.
Abimbola ‘Abel’ (left) and Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo (right) were collared on Wednesday night at Chicago O’Hare airport, as they returned from a trip to visit family in Nigeria
Chicago PD confirmed on Thursday that the pair seen in this image from surveillance footage around the time of the attack on January 29 (above) were Abel and Ola Osundairo
Smollett has vigorously denied speculation that details of the attack were fabricated or staged, speaking out in an interview that aired on Wednesday just hours before the Osundairo brothers were detained.
It is unclear at this time what the Osundairo brothers told police that would alter the course of the investigation.
Late on Friday, police sources said that cops had seized a bottle of bleach from Smollett’s apartment, according to Fox News correspondent
Meanwhile, new information surfaced about the Osundairo brothers, who in the course of 48 hours went from ‘potential persons of interest’ to ‘potential suspects’ to being under arrest because investigators had ‘probable cause that they were involved in a crime’ to being set free.
Police said that the brothers were the brothers were the two men who were seen on a surveillance image released to the public, and Smollett positively identified the two men in the image as his attackers in a televised interview.
The two brothers are both strongly opposed to President Donald Trump and fervently pro-LGBT, fellow Empire cast and crew members tell
Smollett is said to be close with the brothers and would frequently approach them on set to discuss health and fitness.
Colleagues on the tight-knit Empire set said they had a hard time imagining that the Osundairo brothers could have been involved in the kind of homophobic and bigoted attack that Smollett described.
Abimbola, left, was booked on DUI and speeding charges in July 2015 according to Chicago arrest records. The brothers were picked up at Chicago O’Hare Airport on Wednesday
Police initially said that they tied the brothers to the reported attack using meticulous investigative efforts, including surveillance videos and information from ride-sharing companies.
Although Smollett said he did not know who attacked him, both brothers are known to the actor and he follows them on social media.
Their shared Instagram account also features a video of them working out at the private gym in Smollett’s luxury apartment block.
The brothers are known to have left Chicago for Nigeria hours after the attack.
Their shared apartment was also raided by police, who took away bottles of bleach, electronics, a red hat and a pair of Nike shoes.
The FBI is also involved in the investigation after Smollett reported receiving hate mail. Federal investigators have taken the lead on the mail case, and are supporting Chicago police in the investigation into Smollett’s report of an assault.
Police have been cautious in their official public statements about the case. At last report, investigators still officially considered Smollett a victim in the case.
Smollett has continued to angrily denounce any speculation that the attack did not occur as he described, ascribing racist motives to skeptics and saying that no one would doubt him if he had reported being attacked by non-white assailants.
‘I will never be the man that this did not happen to,’ he told ABC on Wednesday. ‘I am forever changed.’