Chicago police release 2 men questioned in Smollett case

FILE - In this May 20, 2016 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the "Empire" FYC Event in Los Angeles. Chicago police say they're interviewing two "persons of interest" who surveillance photos show were in the downtown area where Smollett says he was attacked last month. A police spokesman said Thursday the two men aren't considered suspects but may have been in the area at the time Smollett says he was attacked. Smollett says two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs before beating him and putting a rope around his neck on Jan. 29. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
FILE - In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series "Empire," attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation afterparty in New York. Smollett is expressing anger over being attacked outside his Chicago apartment last month. Smollett, who plays a musician on the Fox Network's ''Empire'' talked about his ordeal during an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts to be broadcast Thursday on "Good Morning America." He alleges he was the victim of an attack on Jan. 29 by two masked men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
This Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 photo shows an apartment that was searched by police in connection with an investigation of an attack on actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago. Two men characterized by police as "persons of interest" in the attack against Smollett are now considered suspects and have been arrested on "probable cause that they may have committed a crime," a Chicago police spokesman said Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed that a search warrant was executed at the Chicago apartment where the men lived but did not have any information about what exactly what police found. (Nader Issa/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CHICAGO — Chicago police late Friday released without charges two Nigerian brothers arrested on suspicion of assaulting "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett and said they have new evidence to investigate as a result of questioning them.

"The individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete," Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a brief statement.

He gave no details of the new evidence.

Smollett, who is black and gay, has said two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and "This is MAGA country!" beat him and looped a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29 before running away. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.

Smollett, 36, said he was out getting food at a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago when the attack happened.

A spokeswoman for Smollett said she had no comment on the release of the two men Friday.

The two men, identified only as Nigerian brothers, were picked up at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Wednesday on their return from Nigeria after police learned at least one worked on "Empire," Guglielmi said. He said he did not know what the man's job was.

Guglielmi also said police searched the Chicago apartment where the men lived. But he said he had no information on what was found.

Police earlier this week said there was "no evidence to say that this is a hoax" and that Smollett "continues to be treated by police as a victim, not a suspect."

Police have said they found no surveillance video of an attack but continue to look. Investigators also said they were contacting stores in the hope of finding out who bought the rope that was around Smollett's neck.

In an interview with ABC News, the singer and actor said he didn't remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived "because I wanted them to see."

Smollett also said he initially refused to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers. He later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for an investigation.

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See AP's complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case: https://www.apnews.com/JussieSmollett

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