In a shock new twist police sources are now alleging the TV star paid two men to orchestrate the assault — but Jussie Smollett has denied the claims.
star Jussie Smollett has denied he paid two men to stage an assault on him last month.
Law enforcement sources have told multiple media outlets, including CNN, the actor is suspected of paying two Nigerian-born brothers to orchestrate the attack, who were arrested on Wednesday.
But in a statement to the Assosciated Press, Smollett's solicitor said there was no truth to the claims.
The siblings were released without charges on Friday due to "new evidence," a Chicago Police spokesperson said. They are now "co-operating fully" with police, insiders told CNN.
According to TMZ, one of the brothers has turned over his phone and there is a record of a phone call between him and Smollett near the location and time of the supposed attack.
"The new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr Smollett was an active participant in the incident," a police source told Deadline.
Sources on Friday told both ABC and CBS that investigators were looking into whether the men helped Smollett stage the attack because he was being allegedly set to be written off the show — something that was denied by Empire's writers.
The brothers' lawyer Gloria Schmidt told CBS News they worked with Smollett on the set of his hit TV show Empire, in which he played gay character Jamal, and worked out with him at the gym.
According to Smollett, he was attacked in Chicago during the early hours of January 29 by two men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
The actor, who is gay, alleged one of the men also poured an unknown chemical on him and put a rope around his neck.
Sources told US TV station Fox 32 there are records that the two brothers had purchased the rope found around Smollet's neck at a store.
Speaking to US breakfast show Good Morning America on Thursday, Smollett denied he had initially told police his attackers were wearing "Make America Great Again" hats and said he was frustrated doubt was being cast over his story.
"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."