Chicago police have shifted the direction of their investigation into actor Jussie Smollett’s report of a hate-crime assault and are seeking to interview him again, after releasing two men detained for questioning in the probe, a police spokesman said on Saturday.
Smollett, 36, an openly gay African-American performer who plays a gay character on the musical hip-hop TV drama “Empire,” ignited a furor on social media last month when he reported he had been attacked on the street by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs.
According to Smollett’s account, his assailants struck him in the face, draped a rope around his neck and doused him with an “unknown chemical substance” before fleeing. Police said the actor took himself to a hospital but was not seriously hurt.
On Wednesday evening this week, police said they arrested two Nigerian brothers described as “persons of interest” who were recognized from surveillance camera footage taken in the area of the alleged Jan. 29 assault.
The pair were freed two days later without charge, police told Reuters on Friday, in light of “new evidence” from their interrogation.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi denied a media report on Thursday that detectives were looking into whether Smollett had staged the attack, saying then that there was “no evidence to say this is a hoax.”
On Saturday, Guglielmi issued a brief statement saying that “information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the ‘Empire’ case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” He added, “We’ve reached out to the ‘Empire’ cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Attorneys for Smollett said in a statement late on Saturday that he was “angered and devastated” by recent reports that the alleged attackers were people he is familiar with, including a personal trainer he hired to prepare him for a music video.
“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,” said the lawyers, Todd Pugh and Jonathan Brayman.
Smollett and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago police department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate, they said.
Meanwhile, the New York Post reported that Smollett has also retained the services of criminal defense lawyer Michael Monico, a former Illinois federal prosecutor who is also representing President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen.
Monico could immediately be reached by Reuters for comment.
“Empire” debuted on the Fox network in 2015 and has earned multiple Emmy nominations. Smollett plays the character Jamal Lyon, a member of the family that is the focus of the show.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sam Holmes and Daniel Wallis)
Trump is a vampire who feeds off his own followers — and no one deserved to be drained more than Jeff Sessions
Former senator and disgraced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has finally come, at age 73, to what is almost certainly the end of the road for his villainous political career. On Tuesday night, the right-wing Republican who served as a U.S. senator from 1997 to 2017 lost in his comeback attempt, defeated in the Republican primary for his old seat by Tommy Tuberville, a man whose cartoonish name better suited his previous career as head football coach at Auburn. The runoff election between the two wasn't even close, with the Riverboat Gambler (a silly and self-serious nickname for Tuberville, especially when "The Tubz" was right there for the taking) taking more than 60% of the vote.
‘Top Gun’ helmet and ‘Alien’ spaceship in Hollywood props auction
Maverick's fighter jet helmet, Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber, Rocky's boxing gloves and an 11-foot "Alien" spaceship tipped to fetch half a million dollars will go up for auction in Los Angeles next month.
The sale of hundreds of legendary Hollywood movie props will be live-streamed on August 26-27, including items wielded by Indiana Jones and Clint Eastwood's Western outlaw Josey Wales.
A giant model of "Nostromo," the interstellar tug-ship on which Ridley Scott's classic "Alien" takes place, tops the pre-sale estimates at $300,000-500,000.
Constructed mainly of wood and steel, it was personally filmed for the movie's exterior shots by Scott, who had it "repainted dark gray and weathered extensively to imply decades of deep-space travel," said event organizers Prop Store.
‘Complete and utter moron’: Anti-mask Republican derided after he ‘dismantles himself’ amid grilling from CNN host
Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R) is facing a backlash online after appearing Wednesday on CNN to argue against mask mandates, which are intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Sabatini told CNN host Brianna Keilar that mask mandates were a violation of Florida's constitution. "This is something government has never done before. We've never had government telling people what you have to do with your own face," he said.