Law enforcement sources are reporting that the two brothers arrested Friday in connection with the alleged attack of Empire actor Jussie Smollett have been revealed to have been paid to stage the assault.
Two sources close to the investigation told CNN the brothers, Obabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, are cooperating with law enforcement. The sources also said authorities have records showing the two brothers bought the rope found around Smollett's neck at an Ace Hardware store in Chicago.
"A source close to the investigation tells CBS News that 2 brothers — arrested & then released — told detectives that Smollett paid them to participate in the alleged attack, & that they purchased the rope found around Smollett's neck at a hardware store," CBS News journalist David Begnaud also reported Saturday.
Smollett claimed he was attacked in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, when two men yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him while he was on his way to his Chicago apartment. He also claimed an unknown chemical substance was poured on him and a rope was put around his neck.
The Osundairo brothers were arrested early Friday and released hours later and not charged. Police said they found "new evidence" after interrogating the two.
"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,” Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Friday.
Gugielmi said the brothers, who both worked on Empire, were no longer considered suspects.
TMZ reports that at least one of the brothers turned his phone over to police. The phone records show a call between him and Smollett near the area of the alleged attack.
The brothers' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, was asked about the "new evidence" that led to their release on Friday night. She said it was "new evidence that was brought to their attention... obviously I had it, my clients had it, but I think it took a matter of coordination."
During the week, law enforcement sources told local news outlets the attack was "potentially orchestrated" by Smollett. Police tried to quell those rumors by insisting there was no evidence it was a hoax yet.
There were also reports Smollett may have orchestrated the attack after learning he would be written off Empire. However, 20th Century FOX Television, the studio that produces the show, said this was not true.
"The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him," the studio said.
In his Good Morning America interview Thursday, Smollett responded to the rumors the attack was staged.
"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more," he said. "And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now."
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