Empire star, Jussie Smollett reportedly paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month.
According to two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation who spoke to CNN, he actor paid two brothers to stage an attack against him, directed them to buy items used in the alleged assault and rehearsed it with them.
The men, who are brothers, were arrested and questioned by police on Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”
Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said:
“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. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
They were reportedly 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.
Police raided the the brothers’ home on Wednesday, the same day police met them at O’Hare International Airport, as they were returning from Nigeria.
The sources stated that there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago.
One of the brothers reportedly held the rope and poured bleach while the other wore a plain red hat and yelled slurs at Smollett.
The sources say the red hat was bought at an Uptown beauty supply store and that the attack was supposed to happen before Jan. 29. The brothers who are now cooperating with police, stated that the all three of them rehearsed the attack days prior to it happening.
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.
Smollett denies playing a role in his attack, according to his attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, who issued a statement to Saturday night saying Smollett was angry about these latest developments.
“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 read.
“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.” it added
Smollett’s attorneys said they expect further updates from Chicago police on the investigation and will continue cooperating with authorities.
“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,” the statement read.
Smollett identifies as gay and since 2015 has played the gay character of Jamal on the Fox TV drama “Empire.”