The investigation into Jussie Smollett has taken more twists and turns than an Empire season finale.
In the latest unexpected development to emanate from what had originally appeared to be a simple (albeit horrific) case of assault against the star, Smollett has released a statement through his legal team.
It seeks to end speculation that Smollett actually staged the attack late last month in which he was allegedly beaten and taunted by a pair of racist assailants.
This is what Smollett's attorney said late Saturday on his client's behalf:
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.
How did we possibly get to this point?
It's a long and convoluted story...
Smollett told Chicago police that he was savagely beaten early on the morning of January 29.
He told authorities back then that the two suspects screamed yelled that he was in "MAGA country," that they tied a rope around his neck, that they poured bleach all over him and that he eventually took himself to a hospital for treatment.
The case made national headlines.
Numerous 2020 Presidential candidates sent their thoughts to Smollett, celebrities everywhere showered him with support and Donald Trump told the press it was a "horrible" incident.
The beating was referring to in the press as a "hate crime" and a "modern-day lynching."
Shortly after this story went viral, however, the police and the media were given reason to have some doubts.
Smollett, for example, reportedly refused to turn over his full cell phone records to the cops.
According to a new TMZ article, the police were also suspicious after Smollett took them to the scene of the alleged crime and immediately pointed out an obscure security camera in the vicinity.
Questions were raised internally over how Smollett know about this camera and whether he actually planned the attack to occur within the sight of it.
Then... two arrests were made in the case.
However, the men arrested were brothers from Nicaragua who actually worked in the past as extras on Empire. They knew Smollett somewhat well.
This raised even more questions, along the lines of:
- Would two African-Americans really scream racial epithets at Smollett?
- Might Smollett have paid these associates off as part of an elaborate hoax?
This theory is now gaining quite a bit of momentum.
For starters, the brothers were released without being charged -- and the reason given by Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi certainly raises a bunch of eyebrows:
"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."
Shifted the trajectory of the investigation.
The latest update from CNN also begins as follows:
Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago Police believe actor Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month...
Multiple outlets claim that Smollett paid the siblings $4,000 in exchange for their role in the assault.
Why would he do this?
Presumably, sources have alleged, because he was being written off Empire and thought producers would change their minds after he became such a sympathetic figure on the national stage.
It's worth noting, however, that all executives and writers associated with Empire have strongly denied having any plans to let Smollett go.
As you can see, this is a confusing and disturbing case all around.
Either Smollett really was the victim of a violent hate crime... or he's lying about it. There's no in between at this point.
Speaking to Robin Roberts of Good Morning America last Thursday, Smollett insisted he was telling the truth.
"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more," Smollett said.
"And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now."