Empire star Jussie Smollett has furiously denied paying two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to attack him and says he is 'angered and devastated' after investigators in Chicago claimed he orchestrated his own assault.
Smollett’s attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, told Entertainment Weekly: '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.
'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.'
His lawyers now say that one of men was Smollett’s personal trainer for a music video. They added: 'One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video.
'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 stunning turn of events saw the two men involved in the alleged hoax now fully cooperating with law enforcement, CNN reported Saturday.
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.
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
THE FULL STATEMENT FROM JUSSIE SMOLLETT’S ATTORNEYS
Lawyers Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson issued the following statement on Jussie's behalf on Saturday night: '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. 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. 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 attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to “unnamed” sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.
During the attack, the assailants yelled 'Empire f****t' and 'Empire n*****,' the actor has long maintained.
That narrative, however, is now under serious scrutiny by investigators, who reportedly have evidence that Smollett directed his 'attackers' to buy the rope used in the 'assault' at a local hardware store.
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 Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in Chicago.
The brothers made the purchase on the weekend of January 25.
They also bought two red plain hats that they wore during the alleged attack, according to sources close to the investigation.
Police believe that the red hats were purchased at a local beauty supply store in the Uptown section of Chicago.
'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 spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said.
'We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.'
Chicago police are now ‘eager to speak to Jussie Smollett’ in light of the new information that was uncovered, according to ABC News.
‘We have been in touch with Smollett's attorneys,’ a Chicago Police Department spokesperson said.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR ABOUT THE JUSSIE SMOLLETT CASE
Here is what we know so far about the alleged attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett and the ongoing investigation by the Chicago Police Department.
Since CPD is not commenting citing the ongoing probe, the public has been left to rely on Smollett’s version of events.
On January 29, Smollett was allegedly assaulted by two men at around 2am.
Reports indicated that he was allegedly beaten up and had a noose tied around his neck.
The alleged assault took place as Smollett was on his way home after buying a sandwich at a local Subway.
Initial reports indicated that the attackers were ‘white men’ who yelled ‘This is MAGA country’ while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and pouring bleach on him.
But during an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, Smollett denied that his assailants wore red MAGA hats.
Smollett also told Roberts that contrary to reports, his ribs were not broken as a result of the incident.
After the assault, some began to wonder if Smollett concocted the entire story.
That there were those who doubted Smollett stems from a number of factors.
A Chicago Police spokesperson said on the day after the alleged attack that investigators were unable to find evidence of an assault.
The only surveillance camera at the scene was pointed in the opposite direction.
Smollett also phoned the police from his apartment rather than from the scene.
When Smollett initially refused investigators’ request to hand over his phone, this raised eyebrows.
Smollett then handed over his phone records, but they were redacted in order to protect the privacy of people not involved in the attack.
On Friday, police arrested two Nigerian men in the connection with the attack - only to have them released later.
Since both men are black, this has led some to be suspicious of Smollett’s claim that this was a hate crime.
Information emerged later on showing that Smollett knew the two men who were arrested since they were extras on Empire.
A theory floating around on social media stated that Smollett staged the attack because his character was being written off Empire.
But the show’s producers and writers quickly refuted that claim.
‘We made our intentions clear,’ he said.
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.
The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised another $500 upon returning, according to WBBM-TV.
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.
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 The Roe Conn Show, did not reveal how long he has been representing Smollet or in what capacity. Monico last month took over as co-counsel for Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer.
It came as police in Chicago suddenly released the 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.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT COULD GET 3 YEARS IN PRISON FOR FILING A FALSE REPORT TO POLICE
Filing a false report to police in the State of Illinois is considered an act of disorderly conduct, which is a Class 4 felony.
That means that anyone found guilty could face between one and three years in prison.
By law, the crime of disorderly conduct is committed in Illinois by anyone who 'transmits or causes to be transmitted in any manner to any peace officer, public officer or public employee a report to the effect that an offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed, knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for believing that the offense will be committed, is being committed,
Last week, a central Illinois man was sentenced to three years in state prison after he pleaded guilty to fabricating an Amber alert.
On December 15, Mitchell Dutz, 18, told police that three black men stole his car with a 13-month-old infant inside.
Dutz used a social media photo of a child he did not know to claim that there was a kidnapping, according to Peoria Journal Star.
But police rescinded the Amber alert after it became clear that it was a hoax.
Dutz pleaded guilty to motor-vehicle burglary and disorderly conduct.
Last month, a Chicago woman was charged with a felony after she allegedly made a 911 call that turned out to be a
Keesha S. Ingram, 41, allegedly called police before dawn on December 11 to report that a man was threatening to shoot his wife in their home in Warren Township.
Sheriff's deputies responded to the call. They arrived at the scene and set up a perimeter around the house.
After making contact with the residents inside, the deputies determined there was no incident to warrant an arrest, according to the Daily Herald.
Authorities then determined that they were dealing with a 'swatting' incident whereby a person falsely reports an ongoing crime at a particular address in order to harass the individual who lives there.
An investigation led back to Ingram, who is alleged to have known one of the people who lived in the Warren Township home.
Investigators believe Ingram made the swatting call out of revenge against the victim, whom she accused of not paying her money that was owed to her.
Ingram is still on the loose and is wanted for arrest, according to Patch
'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 said in a statement on Friday night.
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 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.
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.
'The left is mentally insane': Trump supporters say they are vindicated since 'Jussie is a liar and a fraud'
As Jussie Smollett is now suspected by authorities of fabricating claims he was beaten by two men alleged to have been Trump supporters, the president’s backers said on Saturday that they are vindicated.
The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, tweeted: ‘It appears that Jussie Smollett tried to manufacture a hate crime to make Trump supporters look bad and most of the media not only uncritically accepted his lies as facts for weeks, but attacked those who questioned the validity of his false story.’
Journalist Michael Tracey tweeted: ‘Popular culture and political media have been so relentless in their promotion of alarmist Trump-era narratives that all critical faculties go out the window when it comes to "hate" incidents that align suspiciously closely with everything pundits, celebs, etc. want to believe.’
Brian Flood tweeted: ‘CNN is all in on the Jussie Smollett news... but they keep forgetting the part where he claimed attackers were Trump supporters.’
‘There was never any real attack,’ according to Ryan Fournier.
Donald Trump Jr tweeted: ‘It appears that Jussie Smollett tried to manufacture a hate crime to make Trump supporters look bad and most of the media not only uncritically accepted his lies as facts for weeks, but attacked those who questioned the validity of his false story’
Brian Flood tweeted: ‘CNN is all in on the Jussie Smollett news... but they keep forgetting the part where he claimed attackers were Trump supporters'
Andrew Surabian tweeted: ‘And just like with Covington, the media was all too willing to help Jussie Smollett pull off his hoax and in the process frame Trump supporters in the court of public opinion before any actual facts came out’
‘Jussie paid to be attacked and then made it look like Trump supporters did it.
‘This is how mentally insane the left has become. They will do anything to bring us down.
‘Well it’s not happening because Jussie is going to jail.’
Fournier also tweeted: ‘Jussie Smollett is a liar and a fraud.
‘He needs to be punished for faking an assault and framing Trump supporters.’
Others compared the Smollett case to last month’s controversy surrounding the teens from Covington, Kentucky, who were filmed making faces at a Native American protester in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
A number of teens from a Catholic high school wore red ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.
Andrew Surabian tweeted: ‘And just like with Covington, the media was all too willing to help Jussie Smollett pull off his hoax and in the process frame Trump supporters in the court of public opinion before any actual facts came out.’
Late on Friday, police sources said that cops had seized a bottle of bleach from Smollett's apartment, according to Fox News correspondent Matt Finn.
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.
Since their release on Friday night, they have been staying at an undisclosed location.
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 TMZ. Both men are said to be loyal fans of former President Barack Obama.
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.
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 left Chicago for Nigeria hours after the attack.
Celebrities rally behind Empire's Jussie Smollett after he is 'brutally attacked' in Chicago
Celebrities and fans alike rallied to lend their support to Jussie Smollett after the 35-year-old actor claimed he was attacked last month.
Janet Jackson took to her Twitter to share a special message for the actor, along with a photo of the two of them together.
'Sending so much luv and healing energy your way @jussiesmollett. we know that you’ll continue to change the world,' added Fergie.
The sentiment was shared by Shonda Rhimes, who said: 'Sending love, healing, and support to @jussiesmollett. We ALL have a responsibility to rise up against the ignorance and hate out there. If you know who did this, REPORT THEM TO THE POLICE.'
Naomi Campbell posted a impassioned plea to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to find the people responsible for the attack.
Sending love to Jussie and the Smollett family after this horrific attack. We support you and pray that you find peace and justice,' said John Legend.
'This is heartbreaking and terrifying...please pay attention to what's happening here,' said Zendaya. 'Sending all my love to @JussieSmollett.'
'No words. Love to you @JussieSmollett,' added Margaret Cho.
'This is horrifying,' said Jamilah Lemieux. 'We love you @JussieSmollett. May justice be swift and unflinching.'
'@JussieSmollett I love you,' said Tika Sumpter
'@JussieSmollett praying you have a full and speedy recovery. So sorry this happened to you, added Raegan Gomez.
Many condemned the racist and homophobic behavior and demanded justice.
Ana Navarro said: 'I saw Jussie Smollett in Miami last week. I can't believe this happened. It is sad and disgusting and and deplorable.'
The sentiment was shared by Reverend Al Sharpton, who added: 'The reported hate attack on my friend and brother, actor Jussie Smollett is despicable and outrageous. The guilty must face the maximum.'
'Sending so much love and prayers to you, @jussiesmollett. I’m in disbelief of what happened to you,' added Eva Longoria. 'It’s a senseless act that shall be met with justice! I can’t believe this is happening in 2019. This world has no room for hate. #AwaitingJustice'
Others took the moment to throw criticism at 'gay jokes' and Kevin Hart's recent appearance on Ellen where he addressed the controversy surrounding his hosting the Oscars.
Actor Ryan Jamaal Swain stated: 'This is why holding "a little homophobic joke'"accountable is taken so FREAKING SERIOUSLY. To quote @amandaseales, you have to be overly confident...black gay men have to deal w/ not only racism but homophobia.' It is always abt duality and a form of respect. @JussieSmollett
'Given what we’ve seen so far, I fully expect the men who attacked Jussie Smollett to score a sit-down interview with Ellen at some point in the next few weeks,' said Saeed Jones. 'Maybe it will be a roundtable discussion with Kevin Hart.'
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.'