Chicago police now believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the alleged assault that took place against him late last month, according to CNN. The two men, who are brothers, were arrested on Wednesday and released two days later without being charged after authorities found “new evidence” in the case. CNN’s law-enforcement sources say those men are now “cooperating fully” with the investigation.
Read More: Jussie Smollett: 20th Century Fox and Chicago Police Deny Report of Staged Attack
The “Empire” actor said he was attacked in the early hours of January 29 by men who shouted homophobic and racial slurs at him, tied a rope around his neck, poured an unknown substance on him, and said they were in “MAGA Country,” short for Make America Great Again.
Via his attorneys, Smollett has released a statement in which he denies having staged the incident:
“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.”