Update6: Smollett reportedly directed at least one of the Nigerian brothers to purchase the rope (at either an ACE hardware store, or the Crafty Beaver hardware store) and hats. They were also paid $3,500 each prior to leaving for Nigeria and promised $500 each upon their return, according to CBS Chicago's Charlie De Mar.
Sources: Rope/hats purchased at direction of Smollett— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 17, 2019
#Breaking: 2 #CPD sources tell @fox32news the brothers arrested & released in #JussieSmollett case told detectives they were paid by the #Empire actor to orchestrate the attack. Detectives also have a receipt for the rope found on #Smollett neck showing the brothers bought it.— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 17, 2019
Smollett case news. Backing up @RaferWeigel report: @ABC confirms detectives were able to confront the 2 brothers— Rob Elgas (@RobElgasABC7) February 17, 2019
with evidence they purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at an Ace hardware store. The brothers agreed to cooperate with police.
It appears that Jussie Smollett tried to manufacture a hate crime to make Trump supporters look bad and most of the media not only uncritically accepted his lies as facts for weeks, but attacked those who questioned the validity of his false story.— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 17, 2019
CNN is all in on the Jussie Smollett news... but they keep forgetting the part where he claimed attackers were Trump supporters🤔— Brian Flood (@briansflood) February 17, 2019
Update5: If you needed any further indication that the walls are closing in on Jussie Smollett, CNN has now gone full-bore against the Empire star, with a panel of guests denouncing what what many suspected all along; it appears that Smollett staged a hate crime hoax.
A lot of Democrats in Hollywood owe MAGA voters an apology. It had a lot of them chastising me for not buying Jussie’s story. Those of us who were skeptical were right. Now @CNN reports Jussie paid the two Nigerian brothers to stage the attack. pic.twitter.com/RIrnKUFEoF— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) February 17, 2019
After the Covington MAGA hat disaster, one might think Democrats would wait before rushing to judgement. One would be wrong. Let's review just three examples:
There is no such thing as “racially charged.”— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 30, 2019
This attack was not “possibly” homophobic. It was a racist and homophobic attack.
If you don’t like what is happening to our country, then work to change it. It is no one’s job to water down or sugar-coat the rise of hate crimes. https://t.co/QAi0IYtSeR
The racist, homophobic attack on @JussieSmollett is an affront to our humanity. No one should be attacked for who they are or whom they love. I pray that Jussie has a speedy recovery & that justice is served. May we all commit to ending this hate once & for all.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 30, 2019
.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019
This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.
Care to revise?
Just remember, Frauds are everywhere y'all...
Frauds are everywhere y’all. Protect the mind, heart and spirit of you and your people at all costs. Just remember... Salt, cocaine and anthrax can all appear to be sugar...(the “refined” kind of course) just be careful out here fam. Happy Sunday. Love you. Real talk. Love on.— Jussie Smollett (@JussieSmollett) January 27, 2019
A minor note - Chicago PD has corrected the information regarding the bleach bottle, telling Fox News that it came from the former suspects' apartment, not Smollett's.
Update4: Chicago PD reportedly reached out to Smollett's legal team "and expressed interest" in talking with the "Empire" star again.
Update3: According to Fox32 Chicago's Rafer Weigel, Chicago PD detectives were able to link the two Nigerian brothers to the purchase of the rope found around Smollett's neck, and they may have been paid to perform the alleged attack.
"The brothers agreed to cooperate with police who are investigating whether Smollett made up the story after police threatened to charge them with battery. The brothers attorney said both brothers knew Smollett," tweeted Weigel, adding "There are unconfirmed reports that Smollett paid the two brothers to perform the alleged scheme."
whether Smollett made up the story after police threatened to charge them with battery. The brothers attorney said both brothers knew Smollett. There are unconfirmed reports that Smollett paid the two brothers to perform the alleged scheme. (2/2).— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 16, 2019
Weigel added that Chicago PD continues to consider Smollett a "victim" in the case. We're sure his super-connected high-profile lawyer has nothing to do with this.
Update2: ABC News reports "Chicago police are saying that the new information they have “could change the story entirely.”"
After interrogating and releasing two men seen in surveillance video near the scene of the alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, Chicago police are saying that the new information they have “could change the story entirely.” https://t.co/SXRrfsRaLY pic.twitter.com/Yleew3Z8GM— ABC News (@ABC) February 16, 2019
Update: In a disturbing (if not altogether unsurprising, given the unconfirmed reports that have circulated in recent days) turn of events, sources from within the Chicago Police Department have reportedly told Fox News that they believe Jussie Smollett's story of being attacked by two white men was a "scripted" "hoax".
From the start multiple Chicago sources from the city and LE told @FoxNews that #JussieSmollett story was a “hoax” and “scripted.” A CPD source says now Police will continue to question Smollett to see if he’ll admit to any lies.— Matt Finn (@MattFinnFNC) February 15, 2019
Breaking: top police source tells @FoxNews that #JussieSmollet was seen walking with what looks like Subway bag back into his apt after attack. Also: suspects said something today to alter course of this investigation.— Matt Finn (@MattFinnFNC) February 16, 2019
Breaking: Chicago police confirm to @FoxNews CPD seized a bottle of bleach from #JussieSmollet apartment. Tonight police still call Smollett a victim. Suspects told detectives something that requires more detective work.— Matt Finn (@MattFinnFNC) February 16, 2019
For context: Smollett reported his attackers poured bleach on him.— Matt Finn (@MattFinnFNC) February 16, 2019
First time Police tell us they took a bottle of bleach from Jussie’s apartment.
Police have also confirmed to Fox that they seized a bottle of bleach from Smollett's apartment (remember, Smollett accused his attackers of pouring bleach on him).
Now that the two (black) men suspected of involvement in the attack have been released, we imagine we'll be learning more about what really happened in the near future.
* * *
Jussie Smollett, the Empire star who claims he beat off two white men after they assaulted him in a 2am hate crime in late January, has retained Michael Monico - the high-powered criminal defense attorney representing former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.
Appearing on WGN's "The Roe Conn Show," Monico was asked about his thoughts on Smollett, "but we can't get your thoughts on Jussie Smollett because [of] this big developing story today, and it turns out you're the attorney for Jussie Smollett, too," said Conn.
"Yes, at the moment, I am," replied Monico.
"Oh for god sakes," Conn joked. "Can you stop getting clients so I can talk to you about the stories?"
Smollett, 36, alleges he was attacked around 2am on January 29 by two white men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, doused him in a liquid that smelled like bleach, hung a thin rope around his neck and yelled "This is MAGA country," before he was able to chase them off. Somehow Smollett was able to keep a grip on his Subway sandwich throughout the ordeal, which he was seen on surveillance still holding when he returned to his apartment.
"And above all I fought the fuck back," said Smollett on February 2.
News of Smollett retaining a criminal defense attorney comes as Chicago police release on Friday night of two persons of interest without charges; Nigerian-born brothers who are acquaintances of Smollett.
The men have been confirmed to be the men seen on surveillance images of the scene of the alleged incident. Chicago Police tell ABC News the reason the men were on the scene is now central to the investigation.
"Yes, they are confirmed to be the men on scene by surveillance video," Chicago Police said. "The reason why they were there is now central to the investigation and we can't get into that at this time." -ABC 7
"Due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete," said Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. The brothers were identified by the Daily Mail as Nigerian-born actors Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo - one of whom was an extra on "Empire." They were arrested on Wednesday night at O'Hare Airport after returning from a trip to Nigeria to visit family.
And, now, one of the "potential suspects" in the @JussieSmollett case walking upside down on a treadmill in the gym at Smollett's building. #JussieSmollett #ItDoesntWorkThatWay #Chicago pic.twitter.com/umjaf2CiKh— CWBChicago (@CWBChicago) February 15, 2019
Police raided the home shared by the brothers on Wednesday night, removing electronic devices, shoes and other items which could help their investigation.
BREAKING:Police raided the home of two persons of interest in Jussie Smollett case last night. Both men are of Nigerian decent and have appeared as extras on the show. Police took bleach, shoes electronics and more.Officers asked family if they knew #Jussiesmollett. @cbschicago pic.twitter.com/PDSFtf5jwb— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 14, 2019
Following their release, the lawyer representing the two men said on Friday night that they gave police new evidence in the investigation, and are no longer considered suspects. On Friday morning, Guglielmi said that the two men "have a relationship with Smollett."
On Thursday night, police said phone records provided by Smollett do show he was on the phone with his manager at the time of the attack. Both men told investigators Smollett's attackers yelled slurs. -ABC 7
Multiple sources have told ABC7 Eyewitness News in Chicago that police have been investigating whether Smollett and the men staged the attack - "allegedly because Smollett was being written off "Empire.""
A source familiar with the investigation told the ABC7 I-Team that Smollett failed to appear for an interview with detectives earlier Thursday but has since spoken with police.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson contacted ABC7 to say they are continuing to treat Smollett as a victim and the investigation remains ongoing.
"Police are investigating whether the two individuals committed the attack - or whether the attack happened at all," Chicago police told ABC News. -ABC 7
Smollett's representatives as well as the writing staff for Empire deny he is being written off the show.
Speaking with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Thursday, Smollett reflected on the alleged incident.
"It's the attackers, but also the attacks," he said - adding that those who don't believe his account "don't even want to see the truth."
According to Chicago PD's Guglielmi, Smollett's comments on GMA are consistent with what he has told Chicago police.