The suspects arrested in the attack on actor Jussie Smollett have been released without charges as police in Chicago cited “new evidence” in the increasingly complicated case.
The Empire actor was beaten in a January 28 attack that he claimed had racial motivations, with the actor claiming two men wearing masks attacked him, put a noose on his neck, and poured an unknown chemical on him. Police scoured surveillance video and found images of two men in the same area as Smollett. As the Hollywood Reporter noted, the men were found and questioned by police, but were released without being charged.
Police said the pair provided “new evidence” during their interrogation, but did not say exactly what this evidence might be.
“EMPIRE CASE UPDATE: 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 PD deputy director of news affairs and communications Tom Ahern tweeted.
As Fox News reported, the two men picked up by police at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in connection with the attack were identified as brothers from Nigeria who worked out in the luxury apartment building where Smollett lived. At least one of the men had worked on Empire and they appeared to be connected to Smollett, who followed the pair on social media.
There had been a previous report that the Empire actor staged the attack as a hoax because he was being written off Empire, but both the Chicago Police Department and producers from Empire denied these reports. Despite the denials, many who had already suspected the attack of being a hoax — especially a number of right-wing media commentators — criticized Smollett.
Jussie Smollett has vehemently denied any allegations that the attack was a hoax or that he was in on the planning of it. In an emotional interview with Good Morning America, the actor said he fought back during the attack and afterward was hesitant to contact police because he feared being stigmatized.
“There’s a level of pride there. We live in a society where as a gay man you are considered somehow to be weak, and I’m not weak and we as a people are not weak,” Smollett said.
Chicago police have continued to say that Jussie Smollett is not considered a suspect and they have no evidence pointing to the attack being staged.