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Two men arrested in connection with attack on Jussie Smollett released without charges

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 2/16/2019 Peter Sblendorio, STORM GIFFORD
Jussie Smollett posing for the camera © Roy Rochlin / Getty Images

Two people who had been arrested in connection with the attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett have been released without charges, Chicago police confirmed late Friday.

The men, who police have identified as Nigerian brothers, were in custody after being picked up at O’Hare Airport Wednesday.

“Due to new evidence as a result of (Friday’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,” said Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Police confirmed earlier Friday that the two people being questioned were initially described as persons of interest when police announced they were talking to them on Thursday.

Police said that Smollett — an actor on the Fox series “Empire” — was allegedly attacked in Chicago on Jan. 29 by two people who put a rope around his neck, poured an unidentified substance on him and hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him.

Officials said they were investigating the case as a possible hate crime.

The new developments come a day after a media report sparked speculation that Smollett was potentially involved in staging the attack because his character on “Empire” was being written off.

Authorities refuted that report and said they have no reason to believe Smollett’s story is a hoax.

Police have not seen footage of the confrontation itself but have obtained security video showing Smollett with a rope draped around his neck.

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Video by ABC News

A rep for 20th Century Fox, the studio behind “Empire,” denied that Smollett might be written off the show, calling him a “core player on this very successful series.”

Smollett said in an interview that aired Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that one of the attackers told him it was “MAGA country” before punching him in the face. (“MAGA” refers to President Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again.”)

“So I punched his a** back,” Smollett told Robin Roberts in the interview. “And then we started tussling. It was very icy, and we ended up tussling by the stairs, fighting, fighting, fighting. There was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back, and then it just stopped and they ran off.”

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