Chicago police now believe that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett paid two men to stage an attack that the actor and his family claimed was perpetrated by men yelling racist, homophobic, and pro-Trump language.
Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that police now believe Smollett paid two men arrested previously and spoke to investigators, adding that police have records of the two men purchasing rope that Smollett said was tied around his neck at a Chicago-area Ace Hardware store.
“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,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Smollett’s representative did not immediately return request for comment.
The news comes hours after Smollett issued a denial of a Variety report claiming he had hired the criminal defense attorney representing President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. Two men arrested on suspicion of conducting the assault on Smollett were also released without charges or explanation from police.
“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 earlier Saturday.
It also comes just two days after Chicago police denied of news reports claiming that police believed the incident to be a hoax, despite Smollett and his family’s insistence that the perpetrators would be caught and brought to justice.
“Media reports about the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives,” Guglielmi said Thursday, according to Variety. “Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”
Smollett claimed earlier this month to have been attacked around 2:00 a.m. in a Chicago neighborhood while walking by two men who shouted “MAGA” and other pro-Trump slogans before attacking him. Smollett also claimed to have heard racist and homophobic slurs during the attack.
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