Update2: Smollett's management team has reportedly retained the services of Anne Kavanaugh, whose Chicago firm MediaPros24/7 provides several media services including crisis management.
He is also reportedly no longer being represented by high-profile criminal defense attorney Michael Monico after an alleged disagreement about Smollett's Saturday statement (h/t Nick Monroe).
Monico told Fox 32 Chicago's Rafer Weigel that he "was but is no longer representing" Smollett, who is now represented by Chicago attorneys Victor Henderson and Todd Pugh.
Monico is no longer representing #JussieSmollett. Per @RoeConn “A source with direct knowledge says there was a disagreement about the decision to release yesterday’s statement. He is now represented by Chicago attorneys Victor Henderson and Todd Pugh”— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 17, 2019
While we are not in a position to confirm, deny or comment on the validity of what's been unofficially released, there are some developments in this investigation and detectives have some follow-ups to complete which include speaking to the individual who reported the incident. pic.twitter.com/b9GgXbSUt9— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 17, 2019
Update: According to CBS Chicago, the Nigerian brothers who were arrested and then released, "Abel" and "Ola," told detectives that they did a practice run a few days before the "attack."
Sources said one of the brothers held the rope and poured bleach while the other wore a plain red hat and yelled slurs at Smollett.
The sources say the red hat was bought at an Uptown beauty supply store and that the attack was supposed to happen before Jan. 29. The brothers told detectives the three men rehearsed the attack days prior to it happening. -CBS Chicago
Jussie Smollett update: Friends of Jussie, Abimbola 'Abel' and Olabinjo 'Ola' Osundairo, are cooperating with investigators and @cbschicago says they reportedly told detectives that they did a practice run a few days before. They are claiming this was premeditated and rehearsed.— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) February 17, 2019
After Chicago police arrested, interviewed, and then released two Nigerian brothers whose information "shifted the trajectory of the investigation," Empire star Jussie Smollett is doubling down on his claim that he was attacked nearly three weeks ago at 2 a.m. in an upscale Chicago neighborhood.
"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," reads a statement from his criminal defense attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson.
"He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack," reads the statement given to media outlets.
Of note, Jussie is now pitting himself against the Nigerian brothers who reportedly told police they were paid $3,500 each to stage the attack, and promised $500 each upon their return from Nigeria after they left the country following the January 29 incident.
"One of the 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.
Here is the latest statement from the attorneys that Jussie Smollett has retained: pic.twitter.com/E6L8KytPgy— 𝕊𝕥𝕖𝕡𝕙𝕒𝕟𝕚𝕖 𝕎𝕒𝕤𝕙 (@WashNews) February 17, 2019
Smollett, 36, claims he was attacked on January 29 around 2 a.m. by two white men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, doused him in a bleach-like liquid, hung a rope around his neck, and yelled "This is MAGA country," before he was able to chase them away. He was seen on security footage entering his upscale apartment with an intact Subway sandwich and a noose around his neck (which he was still wearing when police arrived). Of note, Smollett's manager claims he heard the "MAGA country" slur - which makes him part of this.
While there was no footage of the "attack" despite Chicago's thousands of surveillance cameras, two "persons of interest" were captured on camera...
... who turned out to be Nigerian-born brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, one of whom is Jussie's personal trainer and was an extra on Empire.
After Chicago police arrested the brothers as "potential suspects," they were later released without charges - and investigators say their interview "shifted the trajectory of the investigation."
"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," said Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
According to ABC 7, "Two officials familiar with the Smollett investigation confirmed to ABC News that detectives confronted the two brothers with evidence that they purchased the rope found around Smollett's neck at a local hardware store. The brothers agreed to cooperate with police, who are investigating whether Smollett made up the story, after police threatened to charge them with battery and hate crimes."
Sources: Rope/hats purchased at direction of Smollett— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 17, 2019
Police want to speak with Smollett again, and reportedly no longer consider him a victim.
CPD Spox: Jussie Smollett is no longer considered a victim in this case— Mike Tobin (@MikeTobinFox) February 17, 2019
Meanwhile, CNN journalists Brian Stelter and S.E. Cupp are already trying to shift blame onto "Trumpsters."
“Perhaps the questioning was not tough enough on Good Morning America, but ultimately this is not about the media or politicians or activists or any of the other people that might have been fooled; it’s about Jussie." —@brianstelter https://t.co/32pciPsj3F— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) February 17, 2019
Actually the Smollet hoax is very much about the media, specifically how willing the media is to uncritically run with almost anything to attack Trump supporters. Maybe Smollett wouldn't have lied in the first place, if he didn't think the media would reflexively buy his story?— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) February 17, 2019
The giddiness among Trumpsters over the Smollett news is gross. This story is awful. He allegedly abused police resources, exploited raw divisions in this country, and made it harder for every victim of a hate crime to report. This is sad no matter your politics.— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) February 17, 2019
What’s “gross” is pundits trying to change the narrative to make “Trumpsters” look bad, in a scenario where they did nothing, after some actor allegedly abused police resources, exploited division, and made it harder for victims to report real hate crimes. https://t.co/pqs1TOBtO5— Alana Mastrangelo (@ARmastrangelo) February 17, 2019
I’m wondering if @KamalaHarris still wants #JusticeForJussie? Will she be as vocal about it now or has she moved on?— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 17, 2019
Kamala Harris: Attack on Jussie Smollett was ‘modern day lynching’ https://t.co/jjMzdejZbF
Meanwhile, Smollett's response to all of this: