After 2 days of interrogations, the Chicago Police Department released two Nigerian brothers late Friday without charges in the Jussie Smollett hate crime case. The brothers are no longer considered suspects, according to CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, who said "new evidence" has emerged.
The brothers, whom police have not publicly identified, were detained on Wednesday at Chicago's O'Hare Airport after arriving on a flight from Africa.
Guglielmi tweeted late Friday: "Due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete."
Also on Friday, Smollett retained a high-profile defense attorney to represent him in a possible criminal case.
Fox 32 reporter Rafer Weigel tweeted: "Chicago defense attorney Michael Monico let it be known he was representing #JussieSmollett on @RoeConn radio show today."
Weigel added that Monico also represented Michael Cohen, President Trump's former attorney. Monico is considered one of the best defense lawyers in the country.
Weigel also confirmed police seized a bottle of bleach from Smollett's apartment.
Guglielmi previously stated Smollett would be charged if investigators determined he staged the attack.
Smollett, the star of Fox TV's Empire musical, told police on Jan. 29 that he was assaulted by 2 men who punched him and poured bleach on him in a racist, homophobic attack as he left Subway restaurant at 2 a.m. He said the men tied a noose around his neck and called him "ni--er" and "fa--ot".
Police confirmed that the brothers were the 2 persons of interest seen on grainy surveillance footage in the area at the time of the alleged attack.
Police identified the brothers through phone records and subpoenas to rideshare companies and taxi services who dropped off fares in the area that night.
In an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America that aired Thursday, Smollett confirmed the persons of interest in the surveillance video were the men who attacked him.
"I don't have any doubt in my mind that that's them. Never did," Smollett told Roberts. He apparently was unaware that investigators had already ID'd the men as his friends.
Guglielmi and other investigators watched the GMA interview and later stated Smollett's statements to Roberts were "consistent" with what he told detectives - that the people in the video footage attacked him.
@ABC7chicago reported on Thursday that police were investigating whether Smollett, 36, staged the attack with the help of others because his character was being written out of Empire.
But Fox Television vehemently denied the reports, and the CPD insisted the alleged hate crime was not a hoax.
An attorney representing the Nigerian brothers confirmed they knew Smollett and they often worked out with him at a gym. The brothers also worked as extras on the set of Empire.
@CWBchicago tweeted a video of one of the brothers doing a handstand on a treadmill in a gym at Smollett's Chicago condominium.
On Thursday, police served a no-knock warrant on the brothers' Chicago area home. After ransacking the home, police left behind a list of items that were seized, including bottles of bleach, electronics, a semi-automatic rifle, a book of stamps, a magazine and a handwriting sample.
The latter items were possibly taken to compare to a threatening letter Smollett said he received at Fox's Chicago studios a week prior to the alleged hate crime.
And, now, one of the "potential suspects" in the @JussieSmollett case walking upside down on a treadmill in the gym at Smollett's building. #JussieSmollett #ItDoesntWorkThatWay #Chicago pic.twitter.com/umjaf2CiKh
— CWBChicago (@CWBChicago) February 15, 2019