Watch CBS News

Chicago police dispute reports that attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was a hoax

2 men questioned in alleged attack of Smollett
Acquaintances of Jussie Smollett questioned as "persons of interest" in alleged attack 03:25

Two brothers are being questioned as "persons of interest" in the alleged beating of "Empire" star Jussie Smollett, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds. Their Chicago home was raided Thursday.

A source told CBS Chicago investigators are looking at whether the men helped the actor stage the incident.

Chicago police tweeted that reports about the "incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives." They released a statement Friday, saying, "Interviews will resume today with the two people of interest and their attorney. While we haven't found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax. The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as the victim, not a suspect. The investigation continues."

The brothers are of Nigerian descent and apparently left for Nigeria the same day as the alleged attack.

Their attorney, Gloria Schmidt, said when they returned Wednesday, they were detained by police at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

She said they could face charges as early as Friday, but what they could be charged with is still unclear. Schmidt said her clients are adamant they had nothing to do with the alleged attack on Smollett. 

"They are baffled about why they are people of interest," Schmidt said. "It's an awful thing that happened to Jussie, but it's not my guys."

She added that her clients have worked with Smollett on the set of "Empire" and have spent time with him at the gym.

jussie smollett
Jussie Smollett Getty

She said they were as shocked as everyone else when they learned about the possible hate crime. "This is someone that they know, this is someone that they've worked with. So they don't want to see somebody go through that," Schmidt said.

Last month, Smollett told police two men beat him around 2 a.m. near his Chicago apartment. Police later released two surveillance images of the persons of interest. 

Smollett, who is gay, told police the attackers doused him in an unknown substance that smelled like bleach and tied a rope around his neck. He detailed the alleged attack in a recent interview, saying, "I see the attacker masked and he said, 'This MAGA country (bleep).' Punches me right in the face. So I punched his (bleep) back. So we started tussling. … There was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back."

When police raided the Chicago home of the persons of interest Wednesday night, doors were broken and clothes and belongings tossed around. CBS Chicago reports that police removed bleach, a "black facemask hat," a red hat, an "Empire" script, receipts and other items.

"I've never been some media whore," Smollett said. "That's not who I am. I don't look for that type of attention."

Smollett has denied being involved in or making up the assault. He said he hopes the suspects will be found.

"I will never be the man that this did not happen to," he said. "I am forever changed."

20th Century Fox and writers for "Empire" are pushing back on reports Smollett was being written off the show when this incident took place.

Smollett's publicist said he answered routine follow-up questions for Chicago police Thursday and continues to cooperate.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.