DOWNTOWN — Two people questioned by Chicago police in connection with the Jussie Smollett case have been released without charges and are no longer considered suspects, police said late Friday.
“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,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement.
Smollett in January said he was attacked in Streeterville by two men who used racist and homophobic slurs. Chicago Police detectives have searched for the attackers and worked to build a case with video records, phone records and physical evidence.
Representatives of Smollett emphasized he is a victim in a statement sent to Out magazine this week. The actor, who stars as the son of music moguls in “Empire,” has faced heavy online criticism since reporting the alleged hate crime, with people accusing him of lying about or exaggerating what happened.
Smollett, who is gay and black, told police he was walking early Jan. 29 in Steeterville when two men yelled slurs, including, “‘Empire’ f—–” and “‘Empire’ n—–,” and hit him. The men also put a noose around Smollett’s neck and poured something on him.
Afterward, police released images of two men who they said had been in the area of the alleged attack. The men were found and were being questioned by police Thursday. Authorities said they were no longer considered suspects.
Police also asked Smollett and his manager, who Smollett said he’d been on the phone with shortly before the attack, to turn over their phones.
“Jussie is the victim here, which has been stated by the Superintendent of Police,” Smollett’s statement to Out said. “Jussie has voluntarily provided his phone records from within an hour of the attack and given multiple statements to police. Chicago PD has repeatedly informed us that they find Jussie’s account of what happened that night consistent and credible. Superintendent Johnson has been clear from day one that Jussie is a victim. We are continuing to work closely with the Chicago PD and remain confident that they will find Jussie’s attackers and bring them to justice.
“Any redacted information was intended to protect the privacy of personal contacts or high-profile individuals not relevant to the attack.”
Earlier this month, Smollett released a statement where he said he was doing “OK” after the alleged attack. He thanked supporters for their “outpouring of love.”