Lawyers for Jussie Smollett responded to new reports that surfaced late on Saturday that said Chicago police believed that Smollett orchestrated the attack on himself; the attorneys said that the reports were not true and Smollett is "angered and devastated."
"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," the statement from Smollett's lawyers said. "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," the statement continued. "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 attorney’s anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate," the statement concluded. "At present time, Jussie and his attorney’s have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels."
Early Saturday evening, local Chicago media outlets began reporting that law enforcement sources had indicated that Smollett paid two brothers from Nigeria two orchestrate the attack on him.
"Sources say at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett’s request," CBS News Chicago reported. "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."
Police arrested the two brothers on Wednesday "at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and their apartment was searched Thursday," the Associated Press reported. "They were questioned Friday but police were obliged to release them if they had not been charged within 48 hours."
"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."
Smollett had initially claimed that he was attacked in the early morning hours on January 29 while walking home. TMZ reported:
"Empire" star Jussie Smollett was brutally attacked by 2 men who beat him up, put his head in a noose and screamed, "This is MAGA country."
Sources directly connected to Jussie tell TMZ, the actor arrived in Chicago from New York late Monday, and at around 2 AM he was hungry and went to a Subway. We're told when shortly after he walked out on his way home, someone yelled, "Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?"
The 2 men – both white and wearing ski masks — viciously attacked Jussie as he fought back, but they beat him badly and fractured a rib. They put a rope around his neck, poured bleach on him and as they left they yelled, "This is MAGA country."
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