By Laruen Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
On the night of February 16, the Chicago Police Department announced that their investigation into the alleged hate attack on actor Jussie Smollett had “shifted.” The actor was allegedly attacked by two men in the early morning hours of January 29 in Chicago. Smollett has been a star on the FOX Television show “Empire.”
On February 17, an attorney for Smollett said he the actor was “angered and devastated by recent reports” stating that the police were changing their theory of the case to the direction of an “orchestrated” hate attack. Unsubstantiated rumors swirled that the two suspects arrested in the crime provided evidence to the investigators that contributed to the change in direction on the part of the investigators.
“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 Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed in a statement. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview,” he added.
Smollett’s response to rumor that the attack was staged was pointed.
“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. 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 stated through his attorneys.
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continues. “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. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”
“While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax,” Chicago Police spokesman Guglielmi told reporters. “The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect,” he added.
Several reports claim that Smollett offered to pay two Nigerian models, Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, $4,000 to stage the January 29 assault. Those reports are unconfirmed.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke