Two Men Have Been Arrested In Connection With The Jussie Smollett Case
The two men are brothers who worked as extras on Empire and sometimes went to the gym with the actor, their attorney said.
Two men were arrested Friday in connection with the reported attack against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, authorities said.
Police did not identify the two men because they had not been charged as of Friday afternoon.
Chicago police said Thursday that they had identified two "persons of interest" who were in the area where Smollett said he was attacked in the early morning hours of Jan. 29. Smollett, who is openly gay, told police two men yelled racist and anti-gay slurs, hit him in the face, poured a bleachlike chemical on him, and tied a rope around his neck.
Authorities are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
Police questioned both men and on Friday morning classified them as "potential suspects." They were arrested a few hours later and continue to be questioned by police.
The case took a new turn Thursday night after two local Chicago news stations reported that Smollett, along with the two men, may have staged the attack out of fear that he was being written off of Empire.
But Chicago police pushed back on the reports, saying that while they had not been able to find any video documenting the alleged attack, there was no evidence to indicate it was a hoax, and that Smollett was still being treated as the "alleged victim."
Fox and 20th Century Fox also refuted the local reports.
"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," the studios said in a statement.
The two men in custody are brothers who worked as extras on Empire and occasionally went to the gym with Smollett, their lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, told CBS Chicago on Thursday.
Schmidt, who could not immediately be reached on Friday, said the brothers were returning from a trip to Nigeria when police detained them at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Wednesday.
Authorities also raided the brothers' home and found "a black face mask hat, an Empire script, a phone, receipts, a red hat, and bleach," CBS Chicago reported.
"When they first learned about what happened to him they were horrified," Schmidt told the news station. "This is someone they know. This is someone they’ve worked with, so they don’t want to see somebody go through that."
Schmidt added that the brothers were "baffled" as to why they were being questioned by police.
"They really don’t understand how they even got information that linked them to this horrific crime, but they are not guilty of it," she said.