Jussie Smollett is not backing down.
Following reports the Chicago Police Department believes he paid two men to orchestrate the attack on him last month, the Empire actor's lawyers— Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson — released a statement vehemently denying the claims. "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," read the statement. "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."
On Saturday (February 16), two police officers told CNN that two former suspects, Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, are cooperating with law enforcement after reportedly providing evidence Jussie paid them to attack him. "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 in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter. "We've reached out to the Empire cast member's attorney to request a follow-up interview."
As previously reported, Olabinjo and Abimbola were booked on battery (not charged) on Wednesday (February 13) evening, however they were released without chargers two days later "due to new evidence." While initially the nature of the brothers' relationship with Jussie was unknown, Jussie's attorneys confirmed in their statement that the 36-year-old actor knows at least one of the former suspects. “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," the statement continued. "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."
The Empire star claimed he was assaulted in Chicago around 2 AM on January 29 by two men wearing ski masks. Jussie had just arrived in the city from New York and made a late-night run to a Subway when someone reportedly yelled: "Aren't you that f**got 'Empire' n**ga?" The two attackers then proceeded to jump the actor. While Jussie said he fought back, he was ultimately overtaken by the men. During the attack, Jussie claimed that the suspects also put a rope around Jussie's neck and poured bleach on him. Jussie ribs were reportedly fractured and he was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment. He was released soon after.
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