New evidence in the alleged assault on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett suggests that Smollett paid two Nigerian brothers to orchestrate the attack on him, according to law enforcement officials.
CBS News Chicago reports:
Sources say at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett’s request. The sources also say the 'Empire' actor paid for the rope, which was purchased at the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store the weekend of Jan. 25. The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return.
"2 #CPD sources tell @fox32news the brothers arrested & released in #JussieSmollett case told detectives they were paid by the #Empire actor to orchestrate the attack," Fox 32 Chicago reporter Rafer Weigel tweeted. "Detectives also have a receipt for the rope found on #Smollett neck showing the brothers bought it."
CNN also reported that two Chicago law enforcement officials told the network that they believe Smollett paid the two brothers to coordinate the attack, noting "the sources told CNN that there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett's neck at an Ace Hardware store in Chicago."
"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.
"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 Chief Communications Officer Anthony said. "We've reached out to the Empire cast member's attorney to request a follow-up interview."
Police arrested the two brothers on Wednesday "at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and their apartment was searched Thursday," the Associated Press reported, adding, "They were questioned Friday but police were obliged to release them if they had not been charged within 48 hours."
"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," Guglielmi tweeted.
On January 29, Smollett claimed that he was attacked in the early morning hours near his apartment in Chicago. "Two masked assailants poured ‘an unknown chemical substance’ on him, possibly bleach, and wrapped a rope around his neck, he told police," according to ABC News. "In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett alleges that the attackers yelled 'MAGA country,' a reference to President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan."
Within hours of the alleged attack, Democrats, including socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), immediately tweeted on the story without waiting for all the facts to come out.
"There is no such thing as 'racially charged,'" Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "This attack was not 'possibly' homophobic. It was a racist and homophobic attack. If you don’t like what is happening to our country, then work to change it. It is no one’s job to water down or sugar-coat the rise of hate crimes."
In an interview on Good Morning America, Smollett said: "It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black (who attacked me), I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more, a lot more and that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now."
"For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing," Smollett continued. "I didn't need to add anything like that. They called me a f----, they called me a n----. There's no which way you cut it. I don't need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae."
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