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CPD: Brothers previously suspected in Smollett case meet with cops, prosecutors

Jussie Smollett

Actor Jussie Smollett in 2017. | AP file photo

The two brothers previously considered suspects in the reported attack of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett met with police and Cook County prosecutors at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Tuesday, according to a Chicago police spokesman.

A police source told the Chicago Sun-Times that a grand jury could soon be empaneled to investigate Smollett’s now-disputed claims that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Streeterville on Jan. 29.

Tuesday, CPD spokesman Tom Ahern said the two brothers — at least one of whom knew Smollett from working on “Empire” — met with law enforcement officials at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, though they did not testify.

Around 4 p.m., Gloria Schmidt, the attorney representing the two brothers, walked out of the offices adjacent to the fourth-floor grand jury room, with a group of what looked like plain-clothes law enforcement officers and uniformed sheriff’s officers. Schmidt did not answer questions.

Anne Kavanagh, spokesman for Smollett’s attorney, Todd Pugh, did not respond to requests for comment. The celebrity news site TMZ reported that Smollett had hired high-profile defense lawyer Mark Geragos, whose recent clients include former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office announced Tuesday evening that Kim Foxx had recused herself from the investigation, though she did not say what prompted the recusal.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Earlier in the day, police were following a tip that Smollett was seen in an elevator with the brothers on the same day that he reported being attacked, but that tip was deemed bogus late in the afternoon.

The police department has said for weeks Smollett was the victim of a possible hate crime last month in Streeterville, but investigators may now be probing whether Smollett paid two brothers he knew from “Empire”” to stage the attack, law enforcement sources told the Sun-Times.

Police have been trying to arrange a “follow-up interview” with Smollett, after questioning the brothers, who were taken into custody last week at O’Hare Airport after they got off a return flight from Nigeria. Information from the interview “has, in fact, shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” police said earlier this week.

Smollett has told police he was walking in the 300 block of East North Water Street about 2 a.m. Jan. 29 when two men walked up to him, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him in the face, poured a substance — possibly bleach — on him and put a “thin, light rope” around his neck. The incident has been investigated as a hate crime.

Smollett has publicly expressed outrage at speculation that he may have set up the attack, including a lengthy interview with Good Morning America host Robin Roberts during which he called out “haters” who doubted his account of what happened. Smollett has acknowledged that one of the two men interviewed by police had served as his personal trainer.

The actor said he was reluctant to call police immediately after the attack because of the attention it would receive. Smollett’s manager, who said he was on the phone with the actor at the time of the assault, called authorities 40 minutes later. Smollett has since been interviewed by police and turned over redacted records from his cellphone.

Two of Smollett’s siblings took to Instagram to defend their brother Tuesday.

The two shared a photo of Malcolm X next to a tweaked quote of his in which he derided the news media.

“This is the media, an irresponsible media,” the photo reads. “It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal.”

Contributing: Andy Grimm

MORE COVERAGE: Jussie Smollett’s reported attack and its investigation