The Jussie Smollett saga took a major turn on Saturday, after Chicago Police announced that there was a shift in “the trajectory of the investigation,” CNN reports. Police now believe that Smollett orchestrated the attack with Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, Nigerian brothers and former Empire extras who he reportedly hired to assault him. Smollett plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox show.
Smollett’s lawyers quickly denied the assertion that Smollett was somehow involved in the seemingly racist and homophobic attack that took the world by storm three weeks ago. “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,” lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement. “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.”
According to CNN, Chicago police determined that Smollett was “an active participant in the incident” after they interviewed the Osundairo brothers, who at the time were considered “potential suspects” in the assault after police obtained enough evidence to implicate the duo.
In an interview with Good Morning America last week, Smollett said that he believed he was the victim of the attack—in which two men allegedly put a rope around his neck and said “this is MAGA country—because of his criticism of President Trump. “I come really, really hard against 45,” he said. “I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”
Smollett’s attorneys added that “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.”