Empire star Jussie Smollett paid two men to stage an assault against him which he later claimed was an attack motivated by racism and homophobia, investigators in Chicago now believe.
The two men involved in the alleged hoax are now fully cooperating with law enforcement,
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.
That narrative, however, is now under serious scrutiny by investigators.
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
The cable channel is reporting that 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 a local Ace Hardware store in Chicago.
Chicago police are now ‘eager to speak to Jussie Smollett’ in light of the new information that was uncovered, according to
‘We have been in touch with Smollett’s attorneys,’ a Chicago Police Department spokesperson said.
‘We made our intentions clear,’ he said.
Earlier on Saturday, Smollett 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.
Abimbola ‘Abel’ (left) and Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo (right) were arrested on Wednesday night at Chicago O’Hare airport, as they returned from a trip to visit family in Nigeria
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.
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.
Michael Monico (above) revealed in a radio interview on Thursday that he is Smollett’s lawyer
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.
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 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, pictured, 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.’
Key moments in reported attack on actor Jussie Smollett
January 29, 2019
Smollet is seen with a cut cheek on Jan. 29
Jussie Smollett tells Chicago police he was physically attacked by two white men in downtown Chicago while out getting food from a Subway restaurant at 2am
The black and openly gay actor tells authorities the men used racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an ‘unknown substance’ on him.
Smollett told detectives that the attackers yelled he was in ‘MAGA country,’ an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan, which some critics of Trump have claimed is a racist dog whistle.
Chicago police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none of the videos show the attack.
Police obtain and release images of two people they would like to question.
Police released this image of ‘persons of interest’ taken near the reported attack
Reports of Smollett’s attack draw outrage and support on social media, including from U.S. Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.
Both Booker and Harris called the incident a ‘modern day lynching’.
Joe Biden said: ‘We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts.’
Trump tells reporters at the White House that he saw a story the night before about Smollett and that, ‘It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.’
Smollett’s family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime.
Smollett’s family says he ‘has told the police everything’ and ‘his story has never changed,’ disputing assertions leveled on social media that he has been less than cooperative and changed his story.
Smollett issues a statement telling people that he is OK and thanking them for their support.
He says he is working with authorities and has been ‘100 percent factual and consistent on every level.’
Smollett gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
At the end of the set, he announces that he fought back against his attackers, calling himself ‘the gay Tupac’.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters is in attendance at the concert.
Smollet is seen performing on February 2, where he called himself ‘the gay Tupac’
Good Morning America airs an emotional interview with Smollett, in which he blasts speculation that the attack was staged as itself racist and hateful.
Hours later, Chicago police pick up two Nigerian brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on their return from Nigeria.
Cops identify the two men as the individuals seen in the surveillance images released from the night of January 29. They were identified using records from a ride sharing service.
Sources confirmed that the men were brothers Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, 27, and Abimbola ‘Abel’ Osundairo, 25.
Both had worked on Empire and they were known to be close to Smollett.
Cops questioned them about the case. Police also searched the apartment where the men live.
Brothers Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, 27, and Abimbola ‘Abel’ Osundairo, 25, were detained by police on February 13
Police logs show the items that cops seized from the Nigerian brothers’ Chicago home
Two television stations in Chicago report the widespread belief among investigators that Smollett staged the attack as a hate hoax.
Chicago’s police superintendent later said that he had no evidence to prove that the attack was a hoax.
Producers of ‘Empire’ dispute media reports that Smollett’s character was being written off the show.
High-powered criminal defense attorney Michael Monico reveals that he is representing Smollett.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielimi says the two ‘persons of interest’ are now considered suspects. He says the men are in custody but have not been charged with a crime.
Hours later, Chicago police release two men without charges after arresting them on suspicion of assaulting Smollett and holding them for nearly 48 hours.
A police spokesman said the two are no longer considered suspects and that investigators have ‘new evidence’ to consider as a result of questioning them.