The Corner


Jussie Smollett Hires Defense Lawyer; Rope Was Purchased by His Friends

Jussie Smollett attends a special event for the television series Empire in 2016. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Jussie Smollett, the Trump-despising star of television’s Empire who has said he was attacked by two guys yelling a pro-Trump slogan, has now hired the lawyer for Trump’s lawyer to defend him in any criminal matters that may emerge from what he claims is a vicious January 29 attack.

Michael Monico, a former federal prosecutor who has been representing Michael Cohen during the latter’s legal troubles, said on a Chicago radio show that he was now representing Smollett.

Meanwhile, two African-American brothers, U.S. citizens from Nigeria who, according to their lawyer, are friends of Smollett and work out at Smollett’s gym (and one of whom has appeared on Empire), were held by police this week but released after 48 hours of questioning without charge. (The police didn’t identify them but several media outlets reported their names and what their lawyer said about them.) Something they said has apparently given the police hope of solving the case.

Local Fox32 News reporter Rafer Weigel, who has been following the case closely, reported on Twitter that his police sources were able to prove that the brothers purchased the rope that was taken into evidence after it was used in the alleged assault on Smollett. “The brothers agreed to cooperate with police who are investigating whether Smollett made up the story after police threatened to charge them with battery,” Weigel wrote, adding, “There are unconfirmed reports that Smollett paid the two brothers to perform the alleged scheme.”

The two men held without charge by police are the same two men seen in the vicinity of Smollett at the approximate time of the attack on a previously released surveillance video. Smollett said on Good Morning America this week that he was certain those two men are the ones who attacked him. The reason the brothers were near Smollett on the night in question is now central to the investigation and we can’t get into that at this time,” Chicago Police told ABC News. They also said the information gleaned from the two men questioned “could change the story entirely.”

A Chicago police spokesman has continued to maintain that Smollett is not considered a suspect and that he is considered a victim of a potential crime. Which raises a question: Why would the victim of a brutal attack hire a criminal-defense attorney? Why would he need a lawyer at all?

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