Jussie Smollett told police that on Jan. 29 he was attacked by two unidentified men who put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on his face. The alleged attackers were reportedly yelling racial and homophobic slurs while they were assaulting him.
The former suspects, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were released 48 hours after their initial arrest. The two brothers are reportedly friends of Smollett's and have worked with him as extras on the Fox series Empire, in addition to going to the same gym. “There’s still a lot of moving parts to this. … I’m not part of Jussie’s defense. I’m not part of what’s going on with him. I can just tell you that my guys (are) innocent of the charge and they’re going home," their attorney Gloria Schmidt explained.
In a statement to Deadline, a source close to the investigation said that the focus has now pivoted towards Smollett as the potential orchestrator. “The new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident,” they reported.
After Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo's release, Defense attorney Michael Monico told Variety that he was representing Smollett. However, on Saturday, Smollett's representatives denied Monico's statement.
In response to speculation regarding Smollett's potential exit from Empire, Fox refuted that producers had ever considered writing him off the show. "The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous," 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment said on Thursday. "He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him." The broadcaster has not issued a statement in response to the investigation's most recent development.
During an interview on Good Morning America, Smollett addressed the accusations that he had dramatized the details of the alleged attack. "It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth, you don't even want to see the truth."