BREAKING… As Chicago police declare a significant shift in “the trajectory of the investigation” of the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett nearly three weeks ago, the attorneys for the Empire star has come out swinging tonight in his defense.
“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 obtained by Deadline.
He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack,” the Chicago-based attorneys add of the supposed assault in the early hours of January 29. “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.” (READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW)
Earlier Saturday, a law enforcement official close to the Chicago PD probe told Deadline that “the new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident.” CNN also reported sources in the department telling the cable newser today that the actor, who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox drama, “paid two men to orchestrate the assault.”
This picks up on the release by authorities late last night of Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who police previously described as “potential suspects.” With one of the brothers having appeared on Empire as an extra three seasons ago, the remarks by Smollett’s lawyers now claim that one of the duo was the actor’s “personal trainer” for a music video he was set to perform in.
Arrested on Wednesday, but never charged in what police once referred to a potential “hate crime,” Osundairo brothers have been confirmed by authorities as the two individuals who are seen in the photographs of someone around Smollett’s Chicago apartment that January 29 morning.
Amidst strongly denied rumors that the attack was staged because Smollett was being written off Empire, the siblings are also said to have been the ones to purchase from a local hardware shop the rope that was strung over the actor’s neck by his supposed assailants during the allegedly racist and homophobic fueled attack.
Later this evening Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said “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 went on to add “we’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate,” asserted the statement from Henderson and Pugh tonight in direct response to accusations of self staging of the attack and more interaction with the Windy City cops.
Sitting down with Good Morning America on February 14 in his first interview since whatever truly happened on January 29, Smollett bluntly said he thought the attack occurred because of his consistent slagging of Donald Trump. “I come really, really hard against 45,” the actor told GMA co-host Robin Roberts. “I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”
Well, be it Smollett, the Chicago PD, the lawyers, the Osundairo brothers or some as yet unknown party, the rising sentiment clearly is that someone’s not telling the whole story here. Or as Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Terry Crews put it so well on social media today:
This @JussieSmollett story is just… WHOA
— terry crews (@terrycrews) February 17, 2019
After offering repeated support for Smollett the past three weeks, so far Empire broadcaster Fox has been silent the past 24 hours as the story seems to be snowballing out of control for all concerned.
READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM JUSSIE SMOLLETT’S ATTORNEYS HERE:
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. 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.
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.