UPDATE (2/16/2019): The two Nigerian brothers who were arrested and considered to be suspects in the alleged attack on actor-singer Jussie Smollett have been released by the Chicago Police Department according to a spokesperson. "Due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete," Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer for the department, tweeted. There have been no other reports of additional suspects in the case.
ORIGINAL (2/15/2019): Two men who were questioned about the alleged attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett are now considered suspects in the case, NBC News reports. Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielimi said that the men were arrested based on probable cause of their involvement in the crime. They have not yet been charged.
The two men have been identified as Nigerian brothers, one of whom worked on Empire, though the CDP did not specify in what capacity. An attorney for the suspects told the Chicago Tribune that her clients know Smollett from working on the show and that they had also spent time at the gym with him.
On Thursday, the CPD debunked circulating media rumors that Smollett was involved in the attack. CPD called the theory that the attack was a hoax "unconfirmed by case detectives" and that supposed CPD sources were "uninformed and inaccurate." The rumors, which were first reported by ABC7 Chicago, alleged that Smollett helped to plan the attack because his character was being written off of Empire.
20th Century Fox stepped in to debunk those rumors, as well.
"The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous," the studio said in statement to Deadline. "He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."
Smollett told investigators that his attackers yelled "this is MAGA country" during the attack, which occurred in Chicago in the early hours of January 29. TMZ's original report of the incident noted that the actor had received intimidating mail at the Fox studio where Empire shoots that said "Die black fag."
Police currently have a video of Smollett with a rope around his neck after the attack, but say they will not release it until the investigation is over.
Police must charge the men involved with a crime by Friday evening or release them, according to NBC News.
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