It's been almost three weeks since Empire actor Jussie Smollet made headlines after he was hospitalised following an alleged hate crime attack. But now reports have claimed that Smollett had something to do with his attack, fueling a firestorm of outrage and confusion over what to believe and how to feel about the case.
Following the attack, Smollett was met with an outpouring of support from colleagues and celebrities-alike. In the weeks since Smollett's story first made headlines, the case has taken a bizarre turn. Several reports, citing unnamed sources, suggest that police are investigating whether Smollett helped orchestrate his own attack.
Smollett says he was attacked on Jan. 29 by two masked men at the entrance of the Loews hotel in Chicago. He claims they yelled racist and homophobic remarks, making references to his show Empire and President Donald Trump’s signature slogan, Make America Great Again. Smollett says one attacker tied a noose around his neck and poured a substance on him that he believed was bleach, then the two fled.
Police were unable to find surveillance video of the attack, even though it was in a heavily trafficked area with plenty of cameras. They did, however, release images from surveillance video a day after the incident that showed two shadowed people walking down a sidewalk. Authorities wanted to take them in for questioning.
Earlier this week, police arrested to Nigerian men, Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, brothers who were later found to have known Smollett prior to the incident. Police raided the brothers' home and recovered Empire scripts, a phone and a black mask. After being treated as persons of interest, the two were released after police found new evidence that "shifted the trajectory of the investigation."
Reports began to surface that Smollett was involved in his attack and that he may have orchestrated it. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said they were looking to re-interview Smollett.
According to CBS Chicago, two unnamed sources with “intimate knowledge of the investigation” said Smollett was potentially behind the attack and had involved the two brothers. ABC7 ran another story, again with unnamed sources who claimed that police were investigating whether the attack was staged “allegedly because Smollett was being written off of ‘Empire.’”
Police spokesperson Guglielmi refuted the reports, claiming some outlets sources were “uninformed and inaccurate.”
"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,” Smollett's defence lawyers Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson told Deadline.
Police will continue to investigate Smollett's case.