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Jussie Smollett Assault: Oh, So The Suspects Aren't White, MAGA-Hat Wearing Racists

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File

UPDATE: And now those two Nigerian persons of interest are now suspects (via Associated Press):

Chicago Police say the two men being questioned in the attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett are considered suspects.

Department spokesman Anthony Guglielimi said Friday that the men are in custody and have been arrested based on probable cause that they may have been involved in a crime. But he says they have not been charged in the Jan. 29 attack.

Police have identified the men only as two Nigerian brothers.


ABC News added that the two men "have a relationship with Jussie."

UPDATE II: This didn't age well:

***Original Post**

Let’s rewind to January, not that long ago. Jussie Smollett, star on the television series Empire on Fox, alleged that he was the victim of a possible hate crime. He got punched, had poured bleach on him, and had a rope tied around his neck. The attackers allegedly yelled “this is MAGA country’ during the reported assault (via USA Today):


Chicago Police say they are still searching for the assailants who attacked "Empire" star Jussie Smollett early Tuesday morning in what Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi says they are investigating as a "possible hate crime."

...Guglielmi said police have established "potential persons of interest" in the assault. He added that, "A community alert (with) photos is being constructed and will be disseminated shortly”


…. Guglielmi said that Smollett, who had returned Chicago one day earlier for work, was fully cooperating with investigators and helping them establish a timeline of the assault.

The latest: 'Empire' star Jussie Smollett: Police locate 'persons of interest' on surveillance camera

"Hate will not win: 'Empire' co-star Taraji P. Henson decries Jussie Smollett attack 

Guglielmi told USA TODAY that Smollett, 36, was approached in the early hours of Tuesday morning by two people who "gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him," adding that they punched him in the face, poured a chemical on him and wrapped a rope around his neck. 

Smollett went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to have the cuts on his face and neck treated. He was described as being in good condition and on Wednesday, his representative, Pamela Sharp, told USA TODAY that he was "recovering well." 

Sgt. Cindy Guerra confirmed to USA TODAY that Smollett said in a follow-up interview the next day that his alleged attackers yelled, "This is MAGA country."


When this was first reported, actress Ellen Page took some time during her interview with Stephen Colbert to blame…Mike Pence [emphasis mine]:

In her nine minutes sitting across from Stephen Colbert, Page spoke passionately on a number of issues including climate change, which the actress said the media is not covering sufficiently. Additionally, Page called the media cowardly—“saying it’s a debate whether or not what just happened to Jussie Smollett is a hate crime.” In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Smollett was attacked by two white men who were reportedly wearing ski masks, and who put a noose around his neck while using anti-gay and racist slurs. At one point, the men reportedly screamed, “This is MAGA country!” Chicago police have said they’re treating the attack as a possible hate crime.

“It’s absurd,” Page said. “This shit isn’t a debate.

“Sorry,” she added. “I’m really fired up tonight. But it feels impossible not to feel this way right now, with the president and the vice president, Mike Pence, who wishes I couldn’t be married. . . . He wanted to ban [gay marriage] in Indiana. He believes in conversion therapy. He has hurt L.G.B.T.Q. people so badly as the [governor] of Indiana.”


Well, first file that outburst under" not helping." Second, we have an issue pinning down what exactly happened  because there are some shoddy aspects to this whole story. Smollett’s manager has corroborated the “MAGA country “ line because he was on the phone with his client when he was allegedly attacked. And yet, Smollett won’t turn over the phone to police investigating the incident. But wait; we now have two "persons of interest"and one of them worked on Empire (via NYT) [emphasis mine]:

One of the two men interviewed by the police in connection with a reported attack on the “Empire” star Jussie Smollett has appeared on the show, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said late Thursday night.

The two who were questioned are brothers, according to Anthony Guglielmi, the spokesman. He added in a brief phone interview that the police had searched their homes on Tuesday. The two are currently not considered suspects, the spokesman said, adding that interviews would continue on Friday. He said he did not know what role the one man played on the Fox show.


Aside from the two men, evidence has been hard to come by. Last week, a New York Post reporter found an empty hot sauce bottle that smelled of bleach near the site where Smollett said the attack occurred. That bottle has been turned over to the police, but it has not been established as being connected to Smollett. The lack of witnesses, surveillance video and any other corroborating evidence has spurred theories that have frustrated Smollett.


Smollett has been criticized for not providing his full phone records to the authorities. This week, Smollett handed over what the Chicago police called heavily redacted records. A spokesman for the department said that they “do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation.” On ABC, Smollett defended his reluctance to give up more, citing privacy concerns.

“I have private pictures and videos and numbers,” Smollett said. “My partner’s number. My family’s number. My castmates’ numbers. My friends’ numbers. My private email. My private songs. My private voice memos.”

Law enforcement has continued to say publicly that thus far there is no reason to doubt Smollett’s story.


A rather startling development arose yesterday; where sources told Chicago media outlets that Smollett might have staged the attack due to him being written off Empire. Fox had to come out and deny that development. Chicago PD also said that reports that Smollett had staged the attack over being written off was not accurate as well, though ABC7 Chicago seemed to have been told something different, as they reported police told them they're looking into whether these two people may have executed this assault, or if the attack happened at all  (via ABC7 Chicago) [emphasis mine]:

Chicago police confirmed Thursday that detectives are talking to two persons of interest in connection with the alleged attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

Multiple sources have told ABC7 Eyewitness News that police are investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack allegedly because Smollett was being written off of "Empire."

A source familiar with the investigation told the ABC7 I-Team that Smollett failed to appear for an interview with detectives earlier Thursday, but has since spoken with police.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson contacted ABC7 to say they are continuing to treat Smollett as a victim and the investigation remains ongoing.

Chicago police told ABC News, "Police are investigating whether the two individuals committed the attack - or whether the attack happened at all."

Smollett released a statement Thursday evening, saying, "Today Jussie did answer routine followup questions for Chicago Police Department and continues to cooperate."

Smollett's representatives said he is not being written off "Empire."

Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement saying, "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."


Since then, the two persons of interest are reportedly Nigerian brothers, whose apartment was raided by police Wednesday night. Still, the fact remains that evidence concerning this alleged attack is scarce. No further details about the raid, the timeline, or anything has been released by police.  For now, though, as for the suspects, the description initially given has been totally wrong, but maybe not. 

We'll just have to wait and see.

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