Chicago police believe “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett hired two men to orchestrate the assault on himself, two police sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Saturday.
The brothers, who were arrested Wednesday, were released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”
In a tweet, police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said, “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 charges.”
Case Update: 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. pic.twitter.com/Hswn1Qjgcy
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 16, 2019
The sources told the news outlet that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.
“Yes, at the moment, I am,” Michael Monico, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois’ Northern District, told WGN’s “The Roe Conn Show” on Thursday.
The openly gay actor claims he was attacked early January 29 as he was walking home through Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. He claimed that his masked assailants tied a noose around his neck, poured an unknown chemical substance on him and yelled homophobic slurs and “MAGA country!”
The sources also told CNN that “there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at an Ace Hardware store in Chicago.”
Smollett gave his first detailed account of the alleged attack in an interview with “Good Morning America” that aired Thursday.
During the interview, the actor expressed frustration at not being believed.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more,” Smollett said. “And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now.”
The CNN report comes less than 24 hours after the Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi stated in an email Friday morning that “while we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax.”
“The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect,” Guglielmi added. “For clarification, the two individuals interviewed are classified as potential suspects. Detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime and we are working to corroborate the allegations and investigative timeline as our investigation continues.”
UPDATE: Smollet has denied that he played any part in the attack.
“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,” Smollett’s attorney said in a statement to CNN. “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.”