As the Chicago police investigation into the reported attack on Jussie Smollett enters new territory, the “Empire” actor’s attorney says Smollett plans to speak with detectives as soon as Monday.
One of Smollett’s newly retained attorneys, Todd Pugh, told the Sun-Times on Sunday that the actor and his legal team “expect to [be] back online tomorrow with the investigators.”
Pugh said a possible sit-down would depend on “scheduling availability.”
After the Police Department spent weeks saying Smollett was the victim of a possible hate crime last month in Streeterville, investigators may now be probing whether Smollett paid two brothers he knew from “Empire” to stage the attack, law enforcement sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.
New evidence provided to police during interrogations of the brothers — who are no longer considered suspects — “shifted the trajectory of the investigation” and has detectives wanting to question Smollett in a follow-up interview, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
“We have some information that needs to be corroborated and verified with Mr. Smolette [sic],” another police spokesman, Tom Ahern, told the Sun-Times on Sunday.
Guglielmi said Sunday night, however, that police have not classified Smollett as an “offender.”
Detectives have discovered that one of the brothers bought the rope alleged to be used in the reported attack at a Crafty Beaver hardware store in Ravenswood, a law enforcement source said.
Smollett has told police he was walking in the 300 block of East North Water Street about 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 when two men walked up to him, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him in the face, poured a substance — maybe bleach — on him and put a “thin, light rope” around his neck. The incident has been investigated as a hate crime.
Two men were taken into custody by police Wednesday night at O’Hare Airport after returning from a trip to Nigeria, their attorney Gloria Schmidt told reporters Friday. Detectives had believed they were the same men shown in a surveillance image released by police days after the purported attack, Guglielmi said at the time.
They were released Friday night without charges.
Smollett himself denied allegations that the attack was a hoax in an interview broadcast Thursday with anchor Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” and called allegations he was lying “ridiculous.”