The Chicago Police Department has confirmed that the trajectory of its investigation into the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett has “shifted” after questioning individuals believed to be involved in the incident.
In an email to HuffPost, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the attorney for the “Empire” actor had been contacted with a request for a follow-up interview.
“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,” he said.
Two Nigerian brothers arrested on suspicion of assaulting Smollett ― one of whom had been hired by Smollett as a personal trainer ― were released by Chicago police late Friday without charges.
No further details about the investigation have been given by the police.
Citing two anonymous law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation, CNN reports that police believe the actor may have paid the two brothers to orchestrate the attack.
Last week, Chicago police reported that Smollett had been attacked by two unidentified masked men in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The alleged assailants were also believed to have doused the actor in what was likely bleach before wrapping a rope around his neck.
According to police, Smollett was reportedly walking to get food around 2 a.m. when the alleged attackers approached him and began “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” Smollett, who is black and gay, told authorities that the perps yelled “MAGA country,” referring to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Smollett’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson released a statement to ABC News late Saturday in which they said Smollett was “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,” the statement read. “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
It continued: “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 the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels,” the statement read.
The 36-year-old actor previously said he was “pissed off” that some people had questioned his story.
“At first it was a thing of like, ’Listen, if at first 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? How do you not believe that? It’s the truth,’” he said in an interview with “Good Morning America” last Thursday. “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.’”
This story has been updated with comments from Smollett’s attorneys.