UPDATE (9:02pm PST): Jussie Smollett's camp have released a statement denying all reports that the actor coordinated the January attack.
“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," his legal team stated late Saturday night. "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."
His camp confirmed that the men did know Smollett and that one was his personal trainer he hired for a music video. They also stated they are cooperating with police.
Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation into the alleged hate-crime involving Jussie Smollett say they believe the actor coordinated the attack himself.
The two men who were arrested earlier this week on probable cause in connection to the incident have provided new evidence that has redirected the investigation. Police are requesting to interview Smollett immediately.
“We can confirm that the information received from individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case have in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” a police spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Sources confirmed with numerous outlets Saturday afternoon that the two men were instructed by Smollett to purchase the rope that was found around his neck after the incident. Police were able to recover a receipt showing the men did purchase the item.
The actor has a prior relationship with the two men, who he met while working on his show Empire after one played an extra. A lawyer representing the men have told reporters they are friends with Smollett and have even worked out with the actor at a Chicago gym.
The Advocate was able to confirm this through sources and found that Smollett follows the men on their social media pages. The two men would frequently use Smollett’s music in videos they published on their profiles.
Lawyers and spokespeople for Smollett could not be reached to discuss this emerging news.
Earlier this week, Smollett’s phone records that detailed his calls during the night of his alleged hate-crime attack in Chicago were rejected by local police as evidence in the investigation. The actor had made signification redactions in a PDF he delivered to officers that was deemed tampered.
The Empire star — who came out on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show in 2015 — reported the incident last month and told police he was stopped around 2 a.m. on January 29 in downtown Chicago by two men wearing ski masks and yelling racial and homophobic slurs. The individuals then reportedly placed a noose around Smollett’s neck, punched him, and poured an unknown substance on his body.
"This is MAGA country," the men then yelled, according to interviews conducted by the Chicago police with the actor. Smollett’s manager has told police he heard this language among racial and homophobic slurs.
A video of Smollett with a rope around his neck returning to his building after the reported incident has been recovered by the police but has yet to be released. Local police say they will not release this footage until the investigation in finished.
The actor recently told Good Morning America that he stands by his story and was frustrated at criticism that he was lying. Smollett also said the men in a blurry photo released by police where the people who attacked him. However, police have identified the subjects of the video as the men who are now cooperating with them.
The men are of Nigerian descent and do not identify as white.
Chicago police have not filed any charges related to the incident, and Smollett is still named a “victim” at the time of reporting.
This is developing news...