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CHICAGO - Chicago police released two brothers of Nigerian descent Friday who had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
The men were picked up by police Wednesday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and their apartment was searched Thursday. They were questioned Friday but police were obliged to release them.
Update 1:45 p.m. EST Feb. 18: The Wrap reported that representatives for Smollett said the actor won’t be meeting with investigators Monday, despite some reports that he was scheduled to do so.
“There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today,” the musician and actor’s attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, said. “Any news reports suggesting otherwise are inaccurate. Smollett’s attorneys will keep an active dialogue going with Chicago police on his behalf.”
Update 11 p.m. EST Feb. 16: Jussie Smollett’s attorneys released a statement Saturday evening:
"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 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."
New statement from Jussie Smollett’s attorneys “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.” pic.twitter.com/6YaB6WSJN7— Joshua Hoyos (@JoshuaHoyos) February 17, 2019
Update 9:45 p.m. EST Feb. 16: Chicago police said Saturday evening that “the trajectory of the investigation” into the reported attack on Jussie Smollett has shifted and they want to conduct another interview with the “Empire” actor.
According to the Associated Press, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi issued a statement saying: “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.”
Update 8:30 p.m. EST Feb. 16: Sources told CBS that the two brothers who were detained were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria on Wednesday and were promised $500 more when they returned to the United States.
In addition to the rope that was purchased at a hardware store, sources also said that the red hats worn in the attack were purchased at beauty supply store.
Update 7 p.m. EST Feb. 16: Law enforcement sources told WFLD that police are interested in speaking with Jussie Smollet’s lawyer after new evidence surfaced after they conducted interviews with two Nigerian brothers Friday.
According to CNN, police reportedly believe that the brothers were paid by Smollett to “orchestrate the assault.” CNN did not identify their sources.
CNN also said that the brothers purchased the rope at hardware store that matched the rope used in the assault.
Chicago police denied reports that Jussie Smollett staged his own attack because he is being written off the show “Empire.”
Media reports anout the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives. 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. pic.twitter.com/iSO5YFv452— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 15, 2019
“We have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Investigators have confirmed they are interviewing two “persons of interest” in the attack.
The two men “are not considered suspects at this time,” but may have been in the area where the attack occurred, according to Guglielmi.
Guglielmi also said police won’t release any details about the case, including a timeline of events during the attack or the identities of those being questioned.
To safeguard the investigation, details about the case including timelines & backgrounds of those being questioned by police will not be released or commented on while detectives question persons of interest. Media reports of investigative details cannot be confirmed at this time pic.twitter.com/I1ug6u53E9— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 14, 2019
Police reportedly raided the home of the two “persons of interest” Wednesday night, according to WBBM-TV, removing bleach, shoes, electronics, and other items.
The station is also reporting the two men have appeared as extras on “Empire,” meaning Smollett may have known them.
BREAKING:Police raided the home of two persons of interest in Jussie Smollett case last night. Both men are of Nigerian decent and have appeared as extras on the show. Police took bleach, shoes electronics and more.Officers asked family if they knew #Jussiesmollett. @cbschicago pic.twitter.com/PDSFtf5jwb— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 14, 2019
Smollett told police he was attacked around 2 a.m. Jan. 29 in the city’s Streeterville neighborhood by two men shouting racial and homophobic slurs. He said they attacked him and wrapped a noose around his neck. He was hospitalized briefly for treatment of his injures.
It’s taken police weeks to find the people they believe were in a surveillance video taken the morning of the attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.