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Chicago police say 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett refuses to hand over cellphone to them

The actor declined to share telephone records that could show he was speaking with his manager during his alleged assault.
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By Carol Eggers and David K. Li

CHICAGO — "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett has refused to turn over his cellphone to detectives, who are investigating the alleged attack that sent him to the hospital earlier this week, Chicago police said Thursday.

The actor declined to share telephone records that could show he was speaking with his manager just as the alleged assault happened early Tuesday morning in Chicago, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told NBC News.

Smollett has told police he was confronted by two men who allegedly hurled racist and homophobic slurs just before they beat him up. They are investigating the case as a possible hate crime.

The manager has told police he heard the attackers say, "This is MAGA country," during the assault, officials said.

When police asked Smollett for his cellphone and records to confirm the call, he refused to share them, according to Guglielmi.

It wasn't immediately clear if Chicago police would seek to obtain those records independently.

A representative for the actor did not immediately return messages seeking comment about the cellphone and phone records.

But in a prepared statement issued late Thursday afternoon, Smollett's family, through the same representative, reiterated his claim of being attacked because of his race and orientation.

"In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime," according to the family statement.

"Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice."

Police have reviewed hundreds of hours of footage from more than 20 surveillance cameras in the area, according to Guglielmi. They have not found any images of the alleged attack, but do have footage that shows part of Smollet's journey to and from the neighborhood.

Police have released pictures, taken from surveillance cameras, of two "potential people of interest" but stopped short of calling them suspects.

Eggers reported from Chicago and Li from New York

Carol Eggers
David K. Li

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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