(CHICAGO) — After weeks of investigation into Jussie Smollett’s claim of being attacked last month by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs while physically beating him and leaving him with a rope tied around his neck, the Chicago Police Department officially classified Smollett as a suspect in an ongoing criminal investigation for filing a false report.
The announcement, in a tweet from the Chicago Police Department’s verified account, represents another stunning twist in an investigation that has seen more than its share of such developments.
The tweet also announced that detectives are presenting evidence to a grand jury.
While Chicago police officials confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday that authorities are maintaining a dialogue with Jussie Smollett’s attorneys, they remain anxious to re-interview the actor himself.
“We are hopeful that we’ll have a chance to ask the questions that we have,” says Chicago Police Department (CPD) spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
“It doesn’t matter what the investigation shows,” Guglielmi said. “If you have information that’s helpful to law enforcement, it behooves you to contact authorities and share that information. We have been very diplomatic and have been working with him and his attorneys. We got information, and that’s what we want to run by him.”
If Smollett does not come in to speak with police, he said, “We’re going to go with other methods to create a culture of accountability.”
Later Wednesday, an official briefed on the Smollett investigation confirmed to ABC News that attorneys representing Smollett met with police and prosecutors in Chicago today. Lawyers and police would not immediately detail the substance of the discussion.
The CPD’s latest public stance comes after two federal officials confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating whether Jussie Smollett played a role in sending a threatening letter addressed to him at the Chicago studio where “Empire” is filmed, prior to the alleged Jan. 29 attack.
The letter, which was sent Jan. 22, is currently in an FBI crime lab for analysis, one of the sources said.
The allegation concerning the alleged attack and the letter — made by brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who are cooperating with investigators in the probe — has not been officially confirmed.
The Osundairo brothers have also told investigators that Smollett paid them to help him orchestrate and stage the Jan. 29 attack that Smollett said occurred near his Chicago apartment, sources said. Police have not independently verified these allegations and no one has been charged in connection with the case.
“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,” Smollett attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement Saturday. “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.”
Smollett told police that on Jan. 29, he was walking on a street near his apartment around 2 a.m. when he was set upon by two men. The attackers allegedly shouted racist and homophobic slurs before hitting him, pouring “an unknown chemical substance” on him —- possibly bleach -— and wrapping a rope around his neck, he told detectives.
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