Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett said Monday that there are no plans for him to meet with Chicago detectives for a follow-up interview about his reported assault.
Anne Kavanagh, a spokeswoman for Smollett’s lawyers, said in an emailed statement that the attorneys “will keep an active dialogue with Chicago police on his behalf.”
Smollett, who is Jewish, black and gay, has said he was physically attacked by two masked men last month shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country,” a reference to US President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. He said they looped a rope around his neck before running away, as he was out getting food at a Subway restaurant. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.
Police said Saturday that the investigation had “shifted” after detectives questioned two Nigerian brothers about the attack and released them without charges. Police said they had requested a follow-up interview with Smollett.
Smollett’s lawyers said the actor feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.
On Sunday, two law enforcement officials told CNN that police believe Smollett may have paid the actors to assault him.
“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” the actor’s attorneys said.
The law enforcement sources told CNN that records showed the two men arrested and subsequently released had purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck.
On Wednesday, Chicago police picked up the brothers at O’Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria. They described them as “suspects” in the assault, questioned them and searched their apartment.
Then, late Friday evening they released the two men without charges and said they were no longer suspects. They said they had gleaned new information from their interrogation of them.
One of the men is Smollett’s personal trainer, whom he hired to get him physically ready for a music video, the statement from Smollett’s attorneys said.
“It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity,” the statement said.
Police earlier said they were investigating the attack as a possible hate crime and considered Smollett a victim. Reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media, including from US Senator Kamala Harris of California and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
Smollett gave an emotional speech during a concert in West Hollywood, California, on February 2, saying that he went ahead with the show because he could not let his attackers win.
Smollett also gave an interview to Robin Roberts of ABC News that aired Thursday, saying that he was “pissed” at people who did not believe he was attacked.
“I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative,” he said. “I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.”
Producers of the Fox television drama have supported Smollett, saying his character on “Empire,” James Lyon, was not being written off the show.
Police said they combed surveillance video in the heavily monitored downtown Chicago area, but were unable to find any footage of the attack.
Smollett turned over redacted phone records that police said were not sufficient for a criminal investigation.