CNN: Chicago Police Believe Jussie Smollett's Alleged Attack Was 'Orchestrated'; Smollett Denies
UPDATE: Smollett's lawyers a statement Saturday night to "Extra" vehemently denying that he was involved in staging his own attack. The statement reads:
"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 the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to 'unnamed' sources inside of this investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels."
CNN reports that, according to two Chicago police sources, police now believe "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was not attacked as he described, but paid two men "to orchestrate the assault."
The men, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who had been identified from surveillance video at the scene, were arrested Wednesday and held by police for two days. They were never charged. CNN's sources say that records show the brothers bought rope allegedly used in the attack at a Chicago-area hardware store, and that the attack "was supposed to happen before" January 29.
CBS Chicago reports that the brothers were paid $3,500 for their part in the orchestrated attack. They left for Nigeria the night it happened, and were reportedly supposed to receive another $500 upon their return.
Chicago Police Department Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi told "Extra" Saturday, "After we spoke to the former suspects [Friday] night, detectives reached out to Jussie Smollett's attorneys and expressed interest that we need to talk to him again."
He also told "Extra," "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."
Smollett told police he was attacked January 29 around 2:00 a.m. outside his Chicago apartment building by two men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs, leaving him with a rope around his neck. He told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts in an interview that aired Thursday he was "pissed off" about the attack, addressing doubts that have been raised about his version of events.
In the interview, he said, “It's like, you know, at first, it was a thing of, like, 'Listen, if I tell the truth then that's it, 'cause it's the truth.' Then it became a thing of like, 'Oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you — how do you not believe that? It's the truth.' And then it became a thing of like, 'Oh, it's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth, you don't even want to see the truth.'”
The Advocate has confirmed that Smollett has retained the services of criminal defense attorneys Victor Henderson and Todd Pugh. Smollett's team would not elaborate to the magazine why he was hiring criminal defense attorneys.