Empire actor Jussie Smollett paid two actors $3,500 to rehearse the fake MAGA attack in the days leading up to the incident, sources say.
One of the men bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett’s request.
Cbslocal.com reports: The sources also say the “Empire” actor paid for the rope, which was purchased at the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in the Ravenswood neighborhood the weekend of Jan. 25.
The brothers, who were questioned by police this week before being released, were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return.
They left for Nigeria later in the day on Jan. 29, after the attack.
Sources said one of the brothers held the rope and poured bleach while the other wore a plain red hat and yelled slurs at Smollett.
The sources say the red hat was bought at an Uptown beauty supply store and that the attack was supposed to happen before Jan. 29. The brothers told detectives the three men rehearsed the attack days prior to it happening.
Smollett claims two men attacked him in Streeterville early Jan. 29 as he was heading to his apartment. He said they yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, poured a chemical on him and put a rope around his neck.
The brothers are now cooperating with police.
Since being released Friday night, the brothers have been staying in an undisclosed location.
Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said:
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Police raided the the brothers’ home on Wednesday, the same day police met them at O’Hare International Airport, as they were returning from Nigeria.
The two were in custody at Area Central detective headquarters since Wednesday night, before they were released on Friday evening.
Police at one point had placed them under arrest and referred to them as suspects in the case. Then, after interviews on Friday, they were released.
Pictures from the raid show the front door busted off its frame, items thrown across the living room, bedroom doors damaged and clothes tossed everywhere.
Police left behind an inventory list. Some of the items seized include a black face mask hat, an Empire script, phone, receipts, a red hat and bleach.
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reported Thursday that a source with intimate knowledge of the investigation said investigators believe Jussie Smollett “potentially staged the attack.”
Smollett’s attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, released a statement Saturday about the latest allegations.
“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. 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.