According to multiple reports based on unnamed law enforcement sources, the latest “developments” in the wild investigation into the alleged “hate crime” against actor and singer Jussie Smollett are painting an increasingly grim picture for the “Empire” star.
Most notably, police say that Smollett has thus far failed to come in for follow-up questioning despite authorities having made clear privately and publicly that they want to talk with him following the bombshell claims of two Nigerian men once viewed as “potential suspects” but who are now “fully cooperating” with law enforcement in the case. Meanwhile, “rumors” are circulating among local media that authorities may be convening a Grand Jury soon.
“As rumors swirl of a Grand Jury being convened soon on what was once classified as a ‘potential hate crime’ on January 29, the Windy City cops said Sunday that they ‘cannot confirm any details as the investigation is still on-going,'” Deadline’s Dominic Patten reported Sunday. “However, a well-placed law enforcement source tells Deadline that despite emerging and complicating evidence and requests for a further formal interview, Smollett has not made himself available ‘in a timely fashion’ to investigators.”‘
“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and a sense of frustration with the response by Smollett and his lawyers,” the source told Deadline.
Investigators’ call for Smollett to come back in for more questions follows a dramatic turn of events on Saturday: Police sources revealed to reporters that the two “potential suspects” — Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, alleged associates of Smollett taken in for questioning Wednesday and released Friday — said that Smollett had paid them to orchestrate the attack.
In a statement Saturday, Smollett’s legal team issued a strong denial, casting Smollett as being “further victimized” by the new allegations. “As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” his lawyers said in statement to the press. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
Smollett’s attorneys then acknowledged that one of the men was a “personal trainer” of the actor, but suggested that it was “impossible to believe” that he claimed Smollett’s “complicity” in the attack. “One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continued. “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.”
His lawyers concluded by insisting that he would “continue to cooperate” with authorities about the case. “Jussie and his attorney’s anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At present time, Jussie and his attorney’s have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels,” they wrote.
The statement came in response to a series of bombshell reports Saturday, including from CBS News, which reported that a “source close to the investigation” confirmed that the two Nigerian brothers “told detectives Smollett paid them to participate in the alleged attack on January 29 and that they purchased the rope — which was found around Smollett’s neck — at a nearby hardware store.”
“The source said detectives have evidence to corroborate the sale, something the men’s attorney alluded to Friday night,” CBS reported.
“New evidence that was brought to their attention, obviously I had it, my clients had it,” the Osundairo brothers’ attorney Gloria Schmidt said Saturday.
The Chicago Police Department has issued an official statement appearing to confirm the reports. “We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Chicago PD said Saturday. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”