Out actor Jussie Smollett’s lawyers have denied reports that he might have staged his own attack.
Smollett, who is black and came out gay in 2015, has said that he was attacked last month by two men in downtown Chicago. The men hurled racial and homophobic slurs and told Smollett that he was in “MAGA country.”
Multiple outlets, including CNN and The Chicago Tribune, reported over the weekend that Chicago police are investigating whether Smollett paid two men $3,500 to orchestrate the assault.
The reports come after police released two brothers from Nigeria in connection with the alleged attack. Police released the men on Friday without any charges, citing “new evidence.”
“Detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” a police spokesman said in a tweet.
Smollett’s lawyers have denied the reports.
“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 lawyers said in a statement. “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.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. 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,” they added.
If found guilty of staging his own attack, Smollett could face years in prison.