Chicago detectives suspect that Empire actor Jussie Smollett filed a false police report when he said he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in downtown Chicago late last month, a police official said Wednesday (Thursday NZ time).
He had earlier declined to confirm reports subpoenas had been issued for Smollett's phone and bank records. Chicago police said last month they were investigating the alleged assault against Smollett, who is black and openly gay, as a possible hate crime.
Smollett, who is black and gay and plays the Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show, said the men attacked him at around 2 a.m. on January 29 as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago.
Whispers about Smollett's potential role in the attack started with reports that he had not fully cooperated with police and word that detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the attack.
Fox Television says "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett "continues to be a consummate professional on set" and it has reiterated that he's not being written out of the show.
"Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case", spokesperson Tandra Simonton said. But a source close to actor's team told CNN that he has not given police a follow-up interview and no such meeting is scheduled.More news: Apex Legends players banned in first 10 days
Lawyers for Smollett, who has stuck by his story for three weeks as police failed to find surveillance video of an assault and suspicions of a hoax grew on social media, have not responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.
The men - whom attorney Gloria Schmidt identified as Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo - were arrested February 13 but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of "new evidence".
The Osundairos told WBBM-TV "We are not racist".
Jussie Smollett, pictured at the 2017 BET Awards. They were released soon after, and police no longer consider them suspects. The memo line on the check he paid them said it was for training as one of the brothers served as Smollett's personal trainer.
"At first it was a thing of like, 'Listen, if at first I tell the truth, then that's it, 'cause it's the truth.' Then it became a thing of like, 'Oh, how can you doubt that?"
Smollett said that one of the attackers shouted, "This is MAGA country", before punching him in the face.