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Two Brothers Arrested As ‘Suspects’ In Alleged Attack On Jussie Smollett Worked With Him On ‘Empire,’ Attorney Says
The two men have yet to be formally charged as the potential hate crime case takes surprising twist.
Two brothers who have worked with Jussie Smollett on "Empire" have been arrested in connection to the alleged racist and homophobic assault on the actor, though they have not yet been formally charged, according to Chicago police.
Smollett says he was attacked while leaving a Subway restaurant in Chicago on Jan. 29. He said two men hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him before beating him, throwing a chemical on him, which may have been bleach, and leaving a noose around his neck. He said that as they attacked him, at least one of them said, “this is MAGA country.”
The two men, who Chicago police have described as suspects, are Nigerian brothers who were picked up at O'Hare International Airport on their way back from Nigeria, according to the Associated Press. They were arrested on probable cause and a search warrant was executed at their home.
Gloria Schmidt, the brothers' attorney, told CBS News her clients could face charges but she doesn't know what those charges might be. She denied their involvement in the attack on Smollett.
"They are baffled about why they are people of interest," she said. "It's an awful thing that happened to Jussie, but it's not my guys."
Schmidt said her clients worked with Smollett on the set of "Empire" and also know him from a local gym.
"This is someone that they know, this is someone that they've worked with. So they don't want to see somebody go through that," Schmidt said.
During the search of their home, police allegedly removed bleach, a black facemask, a red hat and an "Empire" script, according to CBS Chicago.
This week two reports, from ABC and CBS stations in Chicago and citing unnamed police sources, have raised the possibility that Smollett staged the attack. A potential motive could be that Smollett was being written off "Empire," according to ABC7Chicago.
However, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that reports of the "incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives."
In an email to CBS Chicago, Guglielmi further said that "while we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax. The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect."
The production company behind "Empire," 20th Century Fox, also denies claims that Smollett was being written off the show.
Recently, in an interview with “Good Morning America,” Smollett said he has been “100% factual and consistent” when working with police and that rumors of his story being fabricated have left him “pissed off.”