Update, February 17: The Chicago Police Department has released a statement, following numerous reports in local news outlets from unnamed sources involved with the case, that the focus of their case has shifted. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the press that the CPD have requested another interview with Jussie Smollett.
"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," Guglielmi's statement said. "We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview."
Smollett's attorneys, in a statement shared with the Chicago Sun-Times, identified one of the men who was arrested as Smollett's personal trainers and said, "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."
Guglielmi has declined to confirm or deny reports from unnamed local law enforcement sources that Smollett is being investigated for possibly staging the attack. He did confirm that a request for a new interview with Smollett was sent on Friday night and that the CPD had not heard back by Saturday evening.
"Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," Smollett's attorneys said in the statement. "He has 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...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 the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels."
Update, February 16: After questioning two men thought to be suspects, the Chicago Police Department has released them without charges.
“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,” Anthony Guglielmi, the Chicago Police Department spokesman, said in a statement reported by the New York Times.
Update, February 15: The Chicago Police Department confirmed that the two brothers arrested earlier this week are being treated as potential suspects in the alleged attack against Empire actor Jussie Smollett in a statement provided to the New York Times.
“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,” spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement. The CPD did not immediately respond to Refinery29's request for comment.
Meanwhile, Fox has denied accusations that Empire was planning to write Smollett off of the show.
This story was originally published on January 29, 2019.
Jussie Smollett, who stars on Empire as Jamal Lyon, was reportedly the victim of what now is being investigated as a possible hate crime early Tuesday morning, according to both People and a statement from the Chicago police department. The 36-year-old actor was reportedly leaving a Chicago Subway restaurant at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday when he was attacked outside by two white men wearing ski masks.
"Two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him," the statement from the Chicago police reads. "The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim. At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck. The offenders fled the scene."
The official CPD statement does not name Smollett as the victim, but says the incident involved "a cast member of the television show Empire." Refinery29 has reached out to the CPD for additional comment.
TMZ also reports that the assailants at one point screamed, "This is MAGA country." This has not been confirmed by the police.
According to the police statement, the victim transported himself to Northwestern Hospital and is in "good" condition. TMZ says he was discharged later Tuesday morning, but a rep for Smollett did not immediately return Refinery29's request for comment.