Potential Suspect in Jussie Smollett Attack Appeared on Empire

Jussie Smollett. Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for The Trevor Proj

Chicago police have arrested two potential suspects in the attack against Empire actor Jussie Smollett to hold them for questioning, according to Chicago PD spokesperson Sally Born. But no one has been charged in the January 29 incident in which the actor told police that two masked men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, put a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him.

On Thursday afternoon, Chicago’s ABC 7 released a story claiming that Chicago police were investigating whether Jussie Smollett staged his January attack. “Multiple sources tell @ABC7Chicago Eyewitness News Jussie Smollet[sic] and the 2 men who are being questioned by police staged the attack — allegedly because his character was being written out of the show Empire,” tweeted ABC 7’s Rob Elgas. Now multiple sources — including Chicago PD and 20th Century Fox — are disputing the story.

Earlier in the day, two men were questioned in connection to the attack. According to the ABC story, Smollett failed to turn up for questioning at that time. Chicago PD Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi denied the claims, tweeting, “We have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.” 20th Century Fox, producer of Empire, has released a statement in support of Smollett as well. “The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous,” they wrote. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”

According to the New York Times, two brothers have been questioned in Smollett’s case, one of whom knows him from working on the TV show. According to updates from the CPD to Times reporters Friday morning, the brothers are “classified as potential suspects” and detectives “have probable cause they may have been involved in an alleged crime,” but also note that there is “no evidence to say that this is a hoax.”

Update, February 15: The New York Times first reported on Friday that one of the brothers the Chicago Police Department brought in for questioning appeared on Empire. Sources have now confirmed to Vulture that one of the suspects has a connection to the show. No charges have been filed yet.

Update, February 15: On Friday evening, Chicago Police Department Deputy Director of News Affairs & Communications Tom Ahern tweeted that due to “new evidence,” the men brought in for questioning have been released without being charged, noting that law enforcement now has “additional investigative work to complete.”

Potential Suspect in Jussie Smollett Attack Was on Empire