Update: ABC News reports that the FBI and US Postal Inspection service “are currently investigating whether Jussie Smollett played a role in sending a threatening letter addressed to him at “Empire’s” Chicago studio prior to the alleged attack,” according to two federal officials. The letter featured a hand-drawn stick figure being lynched while a gun is pointed at his head next to the phrase “You will die, black fag.”
“The letter – sent on Jan. 22, is currently at the FBI crime lab for analysis,” reports ABC.
The latest in this ever-changing story comes hours after the two brothers claimed they helped Smollett concoct the alleged assault after he became upset that a letter threatening him, sent to the “Empire” show’s studio, did not get enough attention, sources told ABC News on Monday.
Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo have also told investigators that Smollett paid them to help him orchestrate and stage the Jan. 29 attack that he said occurred near his Chicago apartment, sources said.
Detectives are actively investigating the account of Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, but thus far police have not independently verified the allegations, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told ABC News.
The Osundairo brothers agreed to cooperate with authorities after detectives confronted them with evidence that they bought the rope — allegedly used in an attack that Smollett described to police as laced with racial and homophobic slurs — at a Chicago hardware store, sources said. –ABC News
Empire star Jussie Smollett’s screen time has been significantly reduced by Fox in the wake of a rapidly raveling hate-crime hoax in after two brothers of Nigerian-descent reportedly told Chicago PD that Smollett paid them to stage a January 29 attack meant to frame Trump supporters as bigots.
According to TMZ, Smollett was supposed to have 9 scenes along with a “big musical number” in the second-to-last episode being filmed now, however five of his scenes have been cut, and he’s “no longer the focus” in the remaining four scenes.
With his duties pared down, Jussie will be spending way less time on set. Instead of working every day this week, we’re told Jussie’s working Friday and possibly Thursday, and he won’t be rehearsing.
Less work for Jussie means more work for writers, who are busy making edits. In the past 24 hours, we’re told the script has undergone multiple revisions. –TMZ
According to BuzzFeed, the fate of Smollett’s Empire character is being kept under wraps by Fox – which has so far stood by the actor.
Smollett’s case is reportedly heading to a Grand Jury as early as Tuesday according to law enforcement sources, who say the focus is presenting evidence that could lead to a felony indictment against Smollett for filing a false police report.
As we reported on Monday, evidence has emerged that Smollett concocted the January 29 attack because he was upset that a racist letter sent to the Empire studio didn’t get a “bigger reaction,” according to CBS 2 Chicago.
Smollett received a letter containing a “white substance” at Empire‘s Chicago Cinespace Studios where the show is filmed, prompting a HAZMAT response that failed to gain much traction. The “white substance” was later found to be aspirin.
As a result of the letter’s failure to impress, Smollett allegedly paid two acquaintances $3,500 each to rehearse and then attack him a week later in an attempt to frame Trump supporters as violent racists.
“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack,” a source told CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards. Other sources corroborated that information.
The blockbuster revelation into at least part of Smollett’s potential motive comes two days after CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Smollett and two brothers — Ola and Abel Osundairo — staged the attack on Jan. 29 in Streeterville. –CBS 2 Chicago
CBS 2 reporter Charlie De Mar spoke on the phone with the Osundario brothers Monday afternoon, who said in a joint statement: “We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens.”
While Chicago PD still wants to talk to Smollett, his crisis management team says he has no plans to do so this week.