The story surrounding the racist and homophobic attack against one of the stars of the television show Empire, Jussie Smollett, made international headlines earlier this month as initial reports made it seem like the actor was the victim of an unprecedented hate crime carried out in a very brazen manner. However, as police have questioned the suspects in the case, that seems to be unraveling.
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The attack drew headlines for its violent, racist and homophobic nature. Smollett alleged that the attackers shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him while one poured bleach on the actor and another placed a noose around his neck. A racist note was also left at the scene.
New reports from CBS Chicago seem to indicate that not only was the attack a hoax, but it now seems that Smollett himself may have organized, rehearsed, and fully funded the attack.
Thanks to surveillance footage taken in the area of the alleged attack, police were able to track down two suspects. When they located the two men they were surprised to learn they were two Nigerian brothers who had actually worked as extras on the set of Empire.
According to the CBS Chicago report:
The brothers [pictured below], who were questioned by police this week before being released, 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 said one of the brothers 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 told detectives the three men rehearsed the attack days prior to it happening.
Smollett’s attorneys have released the following statement following the most recent CBS report:
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.
Police are currently requesting a follow up interview with Smollett after letting the two brothers, who they say are cooperating, go free.
If Smollett was found to have orchestrated the attack and then filing the subsequent police report, he could be facing real prison time. Filing a false police report can be a Class 4 felony in Illinois, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison, probation, or a combination of the two.
Here is the latest television report from CBS Chicago: