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Chicago Police Believe Jussie Smollett Paid Nigerian Brothers to Fake Attack

CNN reported Saturday night that Chicago Police now believe that actor Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate an alleged assault on him. He said his assailants wore MAGA hats.

Two brothers who were arrested Wednesday were released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.” CNN reported that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement. He allegedly

Meanwhile, a Chicago CBS affiliate reported that Smollett paid two brothers to stage an attack against him, directed them to buy items used in the alleged assault and actually rehearsed it with them.

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 in the Ravenswood neighborhood the weekend of Jan. 25.

The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return. They left for Nigeria later in the day on Jan. 29, after the attack.

Sources told CBS that one of the brothers held the rope and poured bleach while the other wore a plain red hat and yelled slurs at Smollett.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 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.

CNN said its sources said that there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at an Ace Hardware store in Chicago.

Chicago police, meanwhile, only would say the investigation into the assault reported by Jussie Smollett has “shifted” due to information received from two brothers questioned in the case.

Chicago police had arrested, then released the two Nigerian brothers without charges late Friday and said they were no longer suspects in the attack.

“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 spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an emailed statement Saturday. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”

Guglielmi did not elaborate on what he meant by a shift in the case.

Smollett’s attorneys later Saturday issued a statement saying the actor would continue to cooperate with police, but felt “victimized” by reports that he might have been involved in the attack.

“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” the statement from attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson said..

Smollett, who is black and gay, has said he was physically attacked by two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” He said they looped a rope around his neck before running away as he was out getting food at a Subway restaurant. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.

On Wednesday, Chicago police picked up the brothers at O’Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria. They described them as “suspects” in the assault, questioned them and searched their apartment.

Then, late Friday evening they released the two men without charges and said they were no longer suspects. They said they had gleaned new information from their interrogation of them.

One of the men is Smollett’s personal trainer who he hired to get him physically ready for a music video, the statement from Smollett’s attorneys said.

“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,” the statement said.

Police have said they were investigating the attack as a possible hate crime and considered Smollett a victim. Reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media, including from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Smollett gave an emotional speech during a concert in West Hollywood, California , on Feb. 2 saying that he went ahead with the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.

Smollett also gave an interview to Robin Roberts of ABC News that aired Thursday, saying that he was “pissed” at people who did not believe he was attacked.

“I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative,” he said. “I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.”

Earlier this week, police said reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed ..

Producers of the Fox television drama have supported Smollett, saying his character on “Empire,” James Lyon, was not being written off the show.

Police said they combed surveillance video in the heavily-monitored downtown Chicago area but were unable to find any footage of the attack.

Smollett turned over redacted phone records that police said were not sufficient for a criminal investigation.

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