Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Jussie Smollett's attorneys have denied media reports saying the Empire actor paid two men to help him stage his alleged assault in Chicago last month.
"As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," lawyers Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson said in a statement. "He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."
"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," Guglielmi said.
Two men regarded as "persons of interest" were released without charges Friday night after they were questioned by police.
Guglielmi posted on Twitter Friday "new evidence" came to light during their interrogations with the men and detectives have additional investigative work to complete.
NBC News and the Chicago Tribune cited unnamed law-enforcement sources as saying police are investigating whether Smollett paid the brothers to help him stage the attack.
Smollett, 35, was hospitalized Jan. 29 after he said two unknown men in Chicago attacked him while he was walking and shouted racial and homophobic slurs, police said.
The actor told police the offenders poured an unknown chemical substance on him and wrapped a rope around his neck before fleeing the scene.