Jussie Smollett, the Empire star who claims he beat off two white men after they assaulted him in a 2am hate crime in late January, has retained Michael Monico – the high-powered criminal defense attorney representing former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.
Appearing on WGN‘s “The Roe Conn Show,” Monico was asked about his thoughts on Smollett, “but we can’t get your thoughts on Jussie Smollett because [of] this big developing story today, and it turns out you’re the attorney for Jussie Smollett, too,” said Conn.
“Yes, at the moment, I am,” replied Monico.
“Oh for god sakes,” Conn joked. “Can you stop getting clients so I can talk to you about the stories?”
Smollett, 36, alleges he was attacked around 2am on January 29 by two white men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, doused him in a liquid that smelled like bleach, hung a thin rope around his neck and yelled “This is MAGA country,” before he was able to chase them off. Somehow Smollett was able to keep a grip on his Subway sandwich throughout the ordeal, which he was seen on surveillance still holding when he returned to his apartment.
“And above all I fought the fuck back,” said Smollett on February 2.
News of Smollett retaining a criminal defense attorney comes as Chicago police release on Friday night of two persons of interest without charges; Nigerian-born brothers who are acquaintances of Smollett.
The men have been confirmed to be the men seen on surveillance images of the scene of the alleged incident. Chicago Police tell ABC News the reason the men were on the scene is now central to the investigation.
“Yes, they are confirmed to be the men on scene by surveillance video,” Chicago Police said. “The reason why they were there is now central to the investigation and we can’t get into that at this time.” –ABC 7
“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” said Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. The brothers were identified by the Daily Mail as Nigerian-born actors Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo – one of whom was an extra on “Empire.” They were arrested on Wednesday night at O’Hare Airport after returning from a trip to Nigeria to visit family.
Police raided the home shared by the brothers on Wednesday night, removing electronic devices, shoes and other items which could help their investigation.
Following their release, the lawyer representing the two men said on Friday night that they gave police new evidence in the investigation, and are no longer considered suspects. On Friday morning, Guglielmi said that the two men “have a relationship with Smollett.”
On Thursday night, police said phone records provided by Smollett do show he was on the phone with his manager at the time of the attack. Both men told investigators Smollett’s attackers yelled slurs. –ABC 7
Multiple sources have told ABC7 Eyewitness News in Chicago that police have been investigating whether Smollett and the men staged the attack – “allegedly because Smollett was being written off “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.
“Police are investigating whether the two individuals committed the attack – or whether the attack happened at all,” Chicago police told ABC News. –ABC 7
Smollett’s representatives as well as the writing staff for Empire deny he is being written off the show.
Speaking with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Thursday, Smollett reflected on the alleged incident.
“It’s the attackers, but also the attacks,” he said – adding that those who don’t believe his account “don’t even want to see the truth.”
According to Chicago PD’s Guglielmi, Smollett’s comments on GMA are consistent with what he has told Chicago police.