Two men arrested in Jussie Smollett case are released 'due to new evidence,' police say

No charges were filed against the men, and "detectives have additional investigative work to complete," a police spokesman said.

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By Phil Helsel

Two men arrested in connection with an alleged attack on "Empire" star Jussie Smollett have been released without being charged due to new evidence from interrogations on Friday, Chicago police said.

"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," police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement.

The men are no longer being classified as suspects, police said early Saturday.

Smollett filed a report with the Chicago Police Department on Jan. 29 stating that two masked men hurled racist and homophobic slurs before beating him. The actor also said his attackers poured what he thought was bleach over him and put a noose around his neck.

The department said it was investigating the alleged attack against Smollett, who is black and gay, as a possible hate crime.

Police spokesman Tom Ahern said earlier Friday that two men whom police had been questioning in relation to the alleged attack were arrested and were being questioned but had not been charged.

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Police said the two men, who are brothers, are believed to be the men in a still image released earlier by police. The image was taken from surveillance video on the night of the attack.

An attorney for the men, Gloria Schmidt, told reporters after they were released without charges Friday night that "innocence prevailed."

"My guys are walking home. They're not charged, they are not suspects in this case," Schmidt said.

The men were picked up by officers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday after returning to the city from their native country of Nigeria. On Thursday, police served a search warrant at their home.

At least one of the men has worked on "Empire," the show Smollett stars in, Guglielmi has said.

Guglielmi said in a tweet Thursday that the brothers were in an "area of concern." Police had previously released pictures taken from surveillance cameras of two "potential people of interest" in the case.

Later on Thursday, Guglielmi tweeted in response to local reports that cited unnamed sources saying that police are looking at whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack.

Guglielmi said the reports are unconfirmed and that police Supt. Eddie Johnson had contacted one Chicago news outlet to inform them that "their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate."

Some social media users began to cast doubt on Smollett's claims after police said they were not able to find footage of the alleged attack after going through a voluminous amount of recordings from the many surveillance cameras in the area.

Police also said Smollett refused to turn over his phone and phone records for the investigation. The actor had told police he was on the phone with his manager at the time of the attack. Police have said, however, that Smollett was cooperating with the investigation, andlater gave investigators a PDF file with partial phone records.

In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Smollett said he was upset that some people questioned whether the attack occurred.

"It's like, you know, at first, it was a thing of, like, 'Listen, if I tell the truth then that's it, 'cause it's the truth,'" Smollett said. "Then it became a thing of like, 'Oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you — how do you not believe that? It's the truth.'"

"It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more, and that says a lot about the place we are in our country right now," he said.

Elisha Fieldstadt and Janelle Griffith contributed.