On the day after Chicago police released two men who had been questioned about the alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollett, Chicago police said they want to speak to the actor once again.
“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,” the police tweeted.
EMPIRE 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. #ChicagoPolice
— Tom Ahern (@TomAhernCPD) February 16, 2019
That work includes interviewing Smollett, the Chicago Tribune reported.
On Sunday, media accounts on CNN and Fox News, using unnamed sources, were reporting that police were no longer treating Smollett as a victim and were saying that the evidence they collected implied the attack on Smollett was staged.
Smollett’s attorneys fired back at those reports, Deadline reported.
“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,” said defense lawyers Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson in a statement.
“He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack,” the statement said. “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
Smollett, a gay, black actor who stars in the TV series “Empire,” has said that he was attacked at around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 as he walked on the street near his apartment building. Smollett has said two men shouted racial and homophobic slurs as they struck him and wrapped a rope around his neck yelling, “This is MAGA country!”
The alleged attack provoked harsh condemnation on Twitter from entertainment and political circles.
The racist, homophobic attack on @JussieSmollett is an affront to our humanity. No one should be attacked for who they are or whom they love. I pray that Jussie has a speedy recovery & that justice is served. May we all commit to ending this hate once & for all.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 30, 2019
The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I’m glad he’s safe.
To those in Congress who don’t feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime– I urge you to pay attention. https://t.co/EwXFxl5f2m
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 29, 2019
Gloria Schmidt, attorney for Nigerian brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, spoke to the media Friday night after the brothers — who had been picked up by Wednesday and were reported as possible suspects in the case — were released by police. A video of her comments was posted to the site TMZ.
Asked if that attack was staged, Schmidt said, “There’s so many moving parts to this. That will come out, I think, in due time. I don’t want to speculate.”
Later, talking to reporters, she tried to make her clients’ position clear.
“My guys are walking home. They are not charged. They are not suspects in this case,” she said.
Schmidt added, “there’s still a lot of moving parts to this. … I’m not part of Jussie’s defense. I’m not part of what’s going on with him. I can just tell you that my guys (are) innocent of the charge and they’re going home.”
Meanwhile, the Chicago police confirmed that the “trajectory” of the investigation had changed.
“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,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “We’ve reached out to the ‘Empire’ cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
After interrogating and releasing two men seen in surveillance video near the scene of the alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, Chicago police are saying that the new information they have “could change the story entirely.” https://t.co/SXRrfsRaLY pic.twitter.com/Yleew3Z8GM
— ABC News (@ABC) February 16, 2019
Asked about the evidence, Schmidt said, “Obviously, I had it. Obviously, my clients had it. But I think it took a matter of coordination.” She would not elaborate.
Police said that the two men were the men seen on surveillance videos of the night of the attack.
“Yes, they are confirmed to be the men on scene by surveillance video,” Chicago police said, WLS reported. “The reason why they were there is now central to the investigation and we can’t get into that at this time.”
On Thursday, Smollett was interviewed about the alleged attack on “Good Morning America.” He said the men in the surveillance video had to have been his attackers.
“’Cause … I was there,” he said. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.”
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