While Chicago police continue to investigate the alleged attack of Empire actor Jussie Smollett, the showrunner of the Fox drama threw his support behind his star.
"I believe and stand by [Jussie Smollett]," executive producer Brett Mahoney wrote on Twitter Sunday. "Keep your head up."
The message was also retweeted by the Empire writers room Twitter page.
Smollett claims he was attacked by two men in the early hours of Jan. 29 when he was walking to his Chicago apartment. The 36-year-old claims the men were wearing red "Make America Great Again" hats and yelled racial and homophobic slurs. He also claimed the men poured an unknown chemical on him and put a rope around his neck.
Throughout last week, rumors the attack may have been a hoax surfaced, and two brothers—Obabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo—were arrested Friday. Hours later, they were released without being charged. Police said they provided "new evidence."
Law enforcement sources told local news outlets the brothers told detectives Smollett paid them $3,500 to participate in the attack before they went to Nigeria the day of the alleged incident and were promised $500 when they returned to Chicago. They reportedly said they rehearsed the attack "days" before it happened and bought the rope found around Smollett's neck.
After the details of the evidence surfaced in the media, Smollett's attorneys issued a statement, saying the actor did not play a "role in his own attack."
"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," the statement read. "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."
"There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today," Smollett's representative, Anne Kavanaugh, said Monday. "Any news reports suggesting otherwise are inaccurate. Smollett’s attorneys will keep an active dialogue going with Chicago police on his behalf. We have no further comment today."
Meanwhile, TMZ is reporting that the Smollett case was set to go before a grand jury Tuesday, but it could be delayed for "several days" because police want to have all the records necessary for the jurors if they chose to indict Smollett for allegedly lying on a police report. TMZ's sources said the Osundairo brothers will appear voluntarily to testify.
There were rumors last week Smollett was going to be written off Empire, but Fox denied this.
"There is 0 percent truth that [Smollett] was going to be written off of Empire," co-creator Danny Strong tweeted on Feb. 14. "This rumor is totally false. He is the third lead and one of the most beloved characters on the show. Writing him off the show has NEVER even been discussed."
Photo credit: Fox