Persons of interest released in Jussie Smollett case; investigators focus on Smollett, according to reports

Sat. February 16, 2019 9:42 AM by News Staff

jussie smollett performs in chicago

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Sources tell CNN that new evidence suggests Jussie Smollett orchestrated attack

Chicago, IL - Two people being questioned in the alleged attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett have been released. 

"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," Chicago police spokesman Tom Ahern said in a statement released Friday. 

The men were identified by CWBChicago as Nigerian brothers Obabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo. Their Chicago apartment located in Lakeview was searched by police earlier this week.

One of the brothers reportedly appeared on "Empire" as an extra.

The Osundiros are no longer considered suspects by police. CWBChicago reports investigators are now focused on Smollett. That according to sources. has not independently confirmed whether Smollett is under investigation.

"It's the attackers, but also the attacks," Smollett told "Good Morning America" Thursday. "It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth, you don't even want to see the truth."

"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more," Smollett added. "And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now."

On Thursday, ABC 7 Chicago reported that police are investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack allegedly because Smollett was being written off of "Empire."

Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement saying, "The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."

Attributing two sources with knowledge of the investigation, CBS 2 Chicago reported the attack on Smollett was potentially orchestrated by the actor himself, and involved the two other men.

Chicago police denied the reports, but none of the media outlets have retracted their stories.

Update: (6 p.m. 2/16/2019) CNN reports Chicago Police believe Smollett paid the two men to orchestrate the assault. Sources told CNN the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett's neck at an Ace Hardware store in Chicago. 

Smollett has reportedly hired high-profile Chicago defense attorney Michael Monico.

Update: (6:08 p.m. 2/16/2019) According to Variety, Jussie Smollett's representatives denied that Smollett had hired Monico. 

Smollett, an openly gay African-American who plays a gay character on the Fox hit drama, told police that two men shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured a liquid on him that smelled like bleach and put a rope around his neck during an attack on Jan. 29 in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood.

This story is still developing.