(JTA) — Two Nigerian brothers arrested in connection with the attack on Black, Jewish and gay actor Jussie Smollett were released without charges.
Chicago Police now believe that the actor paid the men to attack him, CNN reported Saturday, citing two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation.
The two men are cooperating with law enforcement, according to the report.
The sources told CNN there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago.
Smollett said in a statement released by his attorneys that he did not play a role in the Jan. 29 attack against him in downtown Chicago, in which he told police that two men “gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him” before attacking Smollett, pouring an “unknown chemical substance” on him and wrapping a rope around his neck. They said “This is MAGA country” as they fled, he also told police.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
Smollett said Thursday in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that is upset that some doubt his account of the incident, which was not captured on a surveillance camera in the area, which was facing in a different direction.
Smollett was born to a Jewish father and African-American mother. He portrays a gay musician on “Empire” named Jamal Lyon.