The previously suspected brothers in an alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett say they were paid by Smollett to carry out the alleged actions, sources close to the investigation told CBS News and CNN, while Chicago police now say the investigation has changed “trajectory.”
On Saturday, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told Entertainment Tonight: “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.”
Chicago police late Friday released without charges two Nigerian brothers they had detained for questioning earlier in the week.
Smollett, who is black and gay, has said he was attacked by two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” He said they looped a rope around his neck before running away as he was out getting food at a Subway restaurant early on Jan. 29. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.
WATCH: Jussie Smollett Attack RumoursView link »
A source close to the investigation told CBS News that the brothers said they were paid by Smollett to carry out the alleged attack, and bought the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a nearby hardware store and have evidence of the sale.
CNN reported the same information from two of its own sources close to the investigation.
All sources said the brothers, identified by police as Ola and Abel Osundairo, are now co-operating with the investigation.
Ola Osundairo has appeared on “Empire” as a prisoner in season two of the show.
Police have been unable to find surveillance video of the attack.
Smollett’s attorneys subsequently issued a statement on his behalf.
“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,” reads the statement from attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson.
“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,” the statement continues
“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 concludes.