Emily Crane, Daily Mail, February 18, 2109
The Reverend Al Sharpton believes Jussie Smollett should be held accountable ‘to the maximum’ if it is found that the Empire actor staged a homophobic and racist attack on himself.
Sharpton was addressing the incident on Sunday after Chicago police said they were still seeking a follow-up interview with Smollett after receiving new information that ‘shifted’ their investigation of the reported attack.
It shifted after police questioned two Nigerian brothers, Abimbola ‘Abel’ and Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, following allegations Smollett paid them $3,500 to assault him in an orchestrated, rehearsed attack.
Sharpton, a civil rights leaders, said the alleged attack on Smollett was a ‘reminder of the times we live in’ when it was first reported on January 30.
The Democratic reverend doubled down on his rebuke of it on Sunday.
‘I, among many others when hearing of the report, said that the reports were horrific and that we should come with all that we can come with in law enforcement to find out what happened and the guilty should suffer the maximum,’ Sharpton said on MSNBC’s PoliticsNation.
‘I still maintain that. And if it is that Smollett and these gentlemen did in some way perpetuate something that is not true, they ought to face accountability to the maximum.
He added, however, the it was not a ‘left wing hoax’ like some had claimed on social media because even President Trump had condemned the incident.
Smollett, who is black and gay, has said he was physically attacked last month by two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and ‘This is MAGA country!’
He said they looped a rope around his neck before running away as he was returning home from an early morning stop at a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago.
Smollett said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.
Reports emerged last week that the actor may have staged the attack to save his job on Empire with the help of the two brothers who he supposedly knew as extras on the show.
The pair decided to cooperate with police after investigators revealed that they had evidence the brothers bought the rope that was put around Smollet’s neck at the nearby at Crafty Beaver Hardware Store hardware store.
Smollett’s lawyers said late Saturday that the actor felt ‘victimized’ by reports that he played a role in the assault, adding that: ‘Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.’
The statement from attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson also said Smollett would continue cooperating with police.
Police said they combed surveillance video in the heavily monitored area where Smollett said the attack occurred but were unable to find any footage of the incident. They did obtain images of two people they said they would like to question.
On Wednesday, Chicago police picked up the brothers at O’Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria. They described them as ‘suspects’ in the assault, questioned them and searched their apartment.
Then, late Friday evening they released the two men without charges and said they were no longer suspects. They said they had gleaned new information from their interrogation of them.
One of the men is Smollett’s personal trainer, whom the actor hired to help get him physically ready for a music video, Smollett’s attorneys said in their statement.
‘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,’ the attorneys said.
Police have said they were investigating the attack as a possible hate crime and considered Smollett a victim.
Reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media from some politicians and celebrities.
Smollett’s account of what happened also has been met with skepticism, particularly in the wake of the latest developments.
One of those people supporting Smollett was House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who wrote on the day of the attack: ‘The racist, homophobic attack on @JussieSmollett is an affront to our humanity. No one should be attacked for who they are or whom they love. I pray that Jussie has a speedy recovery & that justice is served. May we all commit to ending this hate once & for all.’
She has since deleted her tweet.