Jussie Smollett allegedly promised to pay two friends $4000 ($A5600) to stage his racist and homophobic assault — which the trio even rehearsed beforehand, according to a new report.
According to the New York Post, the embattled Empire star paid $3500 ($A4900) to bodybuilding brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo before they left for Nigeria the day of the Jan. 29 attack, and promised another $500 ($A700) upon their return to the US, sources told CBS Chicago.
The brothers told police that the alleged attack in Chicago was supposed to happen before Jan. 29 and that they practised it in the days before it happened.
Smollett, 36, also allegedly paid for the rope, which was purchased from the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in the Ravenswood neighbourhood the weekend of Jan. 25.
Sources said one of the brothers held the rope and poured bleach on Smollett during the 2am attack, while the other donned a red hat and shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him.
The red hat was bought at an Uptown beauty supply store.
Smollett has claimed his two attackers called him a “f****t,” “n****r” and yelled “This is MAGA country!” before throwing a noose around his neck and dousing him in an unknown “chemical substance.”
The Osundairo brothers were arrested on Wednesday, the same day they returned from Nigeria, and identified as suspects — but then released on Friday without charges.
They are co-operating in the investigation and holed up at an undisclosed location.
Police have said the pair of budding model-actors have a “relationship” with Smollett and worked on his hit TV show on the Fox network.
MORE: ‘Persons of interest’ questioned over attack
Smollett’s lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson released a statement late on Saturday, saying the actor is “angered and devastated” by claims he staged the attack, according to ABC Chicago.
“He has now been further victimised 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,” the statement said.
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.”
Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to weigh in on the Smollett controversy.
“It appears that Jussie Smollett tried to manufacture a hate crime to make Trump supporters look bad and most of the media not only uncritically accepted his lies as facts for weeks, but attacked those who questioned the validity of his false story,” Trump Jr. wrote.
US President Donald Trump previously condemned the alleged hate crime as “horrible.”
Smollett claimed the beat down was provoked by his public comments against Mr Trump.
This article first appeared in the New York Post and is republished with permission.