Reports: Chicago Police believe Jussie Smollett orchestrated attack

February 15, 2019 - 11:46 am

CHICAGO (AP/1010 WINS) –  According to reports police have evidence that suggests Jussie Smollett orchestrated the attack, and police now believe the actor paid the two men involved in the incident. A spokesperson from the Chicago Police Department confirms to local Chicago media they have shifted the trajectory of their investigation and have reached out to the "Empire" actor's attorney for a follow up interview.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29th by two men who were, "yelling out racial and homophobic slurs." He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. The two men, who are brothers, were arrested on Wednesday then released without charges Friday and are reportedly cooperating with authorities.

Smollett's attorney's issued a late night statement to ABC News that directly confronts the idea that the incident was a hoax and expressed doubt that the brothers could have been involved.

“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," according to Smollett attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson. "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."

Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the two men, whom police have identified only as Nigerian brothers, according to AP, were picked up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday and taken into custody while returning from Nigeria after police learned that at least one of the men worked on "Empire." He said he did not know what the man's job was on the television drama. He confirmed that a search warrant was executed at the Chicago apartment where the men lived but did not have any information about what exactly what police found.

Police tell ABC7 Eyewitness News in Chicago that the two men have a relationship with Smollett. Multiple sources told the station that police are investigating if Smollett and the two men staged the attack, allegedly because the actor was being written off the TV show.

RELATED: Chicago police: Reports that 'Empire' actor faked alleged attack 'unconfirmed'

Friday's announcement capped a furious 24 hours that has included local media reports that the attack was a hoax. Police say those reports are unconfirmed. Producers of the television drama also disputed media reports that Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show, calling the idea "patently ridiculous."

Guglielmi reiterated Friday that there was "no evidence to say that this is a hoax" and that Smollett continues to be treated by police as a victim and not a suspect.

Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told ABC News in an interview that aired Thursday that the men police took into custody on Wednesday are the ones who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, threw an undetermined chemical substance and looped a rope around his neck before running off. Smollett has said he was attacked while out getting food at a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago.

Guglielmi stressed that the two men have not been charged in the attack, only that they have been arrested for probable cause. He also said that police have not found any surveillance video showing the attack itself, though they continue to look for such evidence. He says police also are contacting various retail stores in the hopes of determining who bought the length of rope that was around Smolllett's neck.

The singer and actor said that the attackers yelled "this is MAGA country," referencing President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan. Smollett told ABC News that earlier reports from some outlets that his attackers were wearing "MAGA" hats were inaccurate.

"I didn't need to add anything like that," he said. "I don't need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae."

Smollett said he didn't want to call police at first, but that his friend and creative director Frank Gatson called on his behalf. Smollett said he didn't remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived "because I wanted them to see."

He also said he didn't initially want to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers.

Smollett later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for a criminal investigation .