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Jussie Smollett's lawyers deny claims that he plotted an attack on himself, so what do we know so far?

Smollett was hospitalised last month and said he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.

The Black AIDS Insitute 2018 Hosts Heroes in The Struggle Gala, Los Angeles, CA, USA, December 1, 2018 Empire Actor Jussie Smollett. Source: PA Images

THE ATTACK ON American actor Jussie Smollett prompted an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from the worlds of celebrity to politics, with even presidential candidates speaking about the young star’s hospitalisation. 

Now, those who spoke out are holding their judgment amid a lack of clarity over what happened and claims that the actor himself may have played a role in the attack on him. 

Smollet’s lawyers have said there is no truth these reports and added that he feels “victimised” by them.

So what do we know so far?

On 29 January in Chicago, Smollett was hospitalised after being assaulted in the early hours of the morning in what police began investigating as a suspected hate crime.

Smollett said he was physically attacked by two masked men shouting “This is MAGA country!’, as well as racial and anti-gay slurs.

Smollett said the attackers looped a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance over him. 

The attack prompted celebrities and politicians to come out in solidarity with Smollett, including Democratic candidates Senator Kamala Harris and Cory Booker who both compared it to a modern-day lynching.

PastedImage-2678 Source: Twitter/KamalaHarris

Over the weekend however, the narrative around the story changed when police said the investigation had “shifted” after detectives questioned two brothers about the attack and released them without charges.  

Police also said they’ve requested a follow-up interview with Smollett.

The two brothers have been named by US media as Ola and Abel Osundairo and CBS News has reported, citing police sources, that they told detectives that Smollett paid them to participate in the alleged attack.

The report further stated that the men left Chicago to go to Nigeria on the day of the attack before returning last Wednesday when they were arrested. 

At least one of the brothers worked as an extra on Empire, the show Smollett starred in.

On Saturday, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CBS that the pair were released and that the investigation had changed.

We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.

In a follow-up tweet on Sunday, Guglielmi acknowledged that there were further reports in the media about the case and again repeated that Chicago Police were seeking to speak to Smollett.

“We’re not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we’ve gotten,” the spokesperson told reporters. 

Smollett’s lawyers said on Saturday that he would continue to cooperate with police and that he felt victimised by the suggestion he played a role in his attack. 

“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” the statement said.

The response from Smollett’s celebrity supporters has ranged from silence to disbelief to those who are urging caution.

Senator Harris said she won’t comment again on the investigation until it is completed. 

Speaking yesterday during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Harris said that “the facts are still unfolding” and said she is “very concerned” about Smollett’s initial allegation and added that it should be taken seriously.

After reports that Smollett was due to meet with investigators, lawyers representing him said yesterday that there were currently no plans for him to meet with Chicago detectives.

A spokeswoman for Smollett’s lawyers told the Associated Press in an email that his legal team “will keep an active dialogue with Chicago police on his behalf.”

- With reporting by Associated Press

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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