Brothers questioned in Jussie Smollett break silence

By Steve Frank

/ CBS News

Chicago cops want to re-interview Smollett

Two Nigerian brothers questioned by Chicago police in connection with a reported attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett are breaking their silence. Ola and Abel Osundairo went from persons of interest in the case to potential suspects to being released without charges.

CBS Chicago spoke with the Osundairo brothers Monday afternoon. In a joint statement, they said: "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."

Smollett, who is black and gay, has said he was assaulted on January 29 by two men shouting racial and homophobic slurs. He told police they shouted "This is MAGA country!"

Police said the Osundairo brothers were captured on surveillance video at the time that Smollett said he was attacked. Ola Osundairo is connected to Smollett through the hit show "Empire" where he played a prisoner in season two.

Both brothers apparently left Chicago on the day of the alleged attack and were detained when they returned Wednesday. Chicago detectives tore through their apartment looking for clues, and an evidence log shows they found ropes, masks and bleach. They were released Friday night without charges.

A source close to the investigation told CBS News that the brothers told detectives Smollett paid them to participate in the attack. The brothers said they bought rope that was found around Smollett's neck at a nearby hardware store. A raid of their home turned up ropes, masks and bleach.

The Chicago Police Department released a statement Saturday night saying information from the brothers had "shifted the trajectory of the investigation."

"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," the statement read.

Smollett's attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, issued a statement late Saturday saying Smollett was "angered and devastated" by reports that he knew the people associated with the alleged attack.

Carter Evans contributed to this report.

First published on February 18, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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