Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett issued a statement Saturday denying that he orchestrated his Jan. 29 assault, and saying he is “angered” and “devastated” by recent developments in the case.
Chicago police want to interview Smollett, after learning new evidence from two Nigerian brothers who were released on Friday night. Local media outlets have reported that the brothers admitted to police that Smollett paid them to carry out the attack. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi issued a statement earlier Saturday saying that the new evidence “shifted the trajectory of the investigation.”
Smollett’s attorneys denied that he was involved, saying “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
Smollett told police on Jan. 29 that two men had attacked him, poured bleach on him, put a rope around his neck, and used racial and homophobic slurs. Police scoured hundreds of hours of surveillance video in search of clues in the case, eventually tracking down the two brothers on Wednesday night.
In the statement, Smollett’s attorneys say that one of the men is Smollett’s personal trainer.
“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,” said the attorneys, Victor P. Henderson and Todd S. Pugh.
The lawyers said that Smollett is “the victim of a hate crime,” and will continue to cooperate with investigators.
“He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack,” the attorneys said.
The full statement:
“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.
“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.
“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.”