“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” said lawyers for Empire actor Jussie Smollett in reference to reports credited to unnamed sources that police are investigating whether the actor orchestrated the Jan. 29 attack on himself. That’s what CNN, NBC News, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today are reporting by way of their sources. CNN reports via two police sources that Chicago police suspect Smollett paid the two Nigerian brothers who were arrested Wednesday and released Friday to stage the assault. Upon the men’s release, Chicago Police rep Anthony Guglielmi on Friday said the men were freed “due to new evidence as a result of today’s investigations,” and that one of the men had been on Empire.
NBC News has a new statement from Guglielmi made Saturday night: “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. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.” USA Today’s source says that police discovered a receipt for rope bought from a hardware store in the home of one of the brothers. The Tribune notes the statement released by Smollett’s lawyers Saturday for the first time verifies that he knew at least one of the men. It reads in part, “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.” (Read more Jussie Smollett stories.)