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 Chicagospoke 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."
TMZ is now reporting Smollett's "Empire" screen time is getting slashed in the wake of a growing sentiment that he staged the so-called "attack."
Production sources tell TMZ ... Jussie was supposed to have 9 scenes and a big musical number in the second to the last episode -- which is being shot now -- but, 5 of his scenes have been cut, and his musical number has been 86'd.
As for the remaining 4 scenes ... we're told he's no longer the focus. The scene features an ensemble, meaning he's flanked by a number of cast members.
With his duties pared down, Jussie will be spending way less time on set. Instead of working every day this week, we're told Jussie's working Friday and possibly Thursday, and he won't be rehearsing.
There is a rumor that this was all staged due to him being written off the show. I would bet that rumor will probably be a reality sooner than later.