"Empire" star Jussie Smollett has denied reports he hired Michael Monico, the criminal defense lawyer who's now representing Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen in charges Cohen violated campaign finance laws and lied to Congress.
Over the weekend, Page Six and other outlets reported Monico confirmed on the Thursday, Feb. 14 edition of "The Roe Conn Show" that he's working with the actor, presumably in connection to Smollett's allegations he was attacked by two men in Chicago on Jan. 29. (The actor told police the men doused him with bleach, tied a noose around his neck and yelled homophobic slurs and "MAGA country" at him.)
When TheWrap contacted Smollett's rep on Saturday, Feb. 16, however, the rep denied their client had hired Monico.
As the investigation continues, police say they're treating the attack as a hate crime, in part because of the homophobic and racist letter Smollette received a week prior to the attack.
Over the weekend, Chicago police arrested brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who work as extras on "Empire," and later released them. They also announced they'd found bleach and a black face mask like the one Jussie described his attackers as having worn in an apartment and said the Osundairo brothers were "present on the scene of the attack," according to Page Six. They added that the brothers supplied the police department with new evidence that's now considered "central to the investigation."
Since the attack was first reported, conservative websites including Breitbart have suggested Smollett staged it, in spite of police confirmations they have seen no evidence that suggests Smollett was anything but a victim in the incident.
"I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level," the "Empire" star said in a statement to Essence after the attack.
"Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served," he continued. "As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process. Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It's all I know. And that can't be kicked out of me."