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Al Sharpton calls for Jussie Smollett to face ‘accountability to the maximum’ if he staged attack
The Rev. Al Sharpton on Sunday said that Jussie Smollett should face "accountability to the maximum" if it's found the actor staged an attack he claimed was perpetrated by men yelling racist and homophobic language.
"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, a longtime civil rights activist, said on his MSNBC program, "Politics Nation."
"I still maintain that," he continued. "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."
Sharpton then dismissed that the new developments in Smollett's case represented a "left-wing hoax," noting that President Trump was among the people to call out what was initially thought to be a heinous crime.
He also said that people had reason to stand behind the "Empire" cast member given his career as an actor and activist.
Smollett told Chicago police that he was assaulted around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 by two men who placed a rope around his neck and beat him with their fists. He alleged at the time that the two men, who he said were wearing masks, poured an unknown chemical on him, according to reports.
Multiple law enforcement officials familiar with a probe into the attack told CNN on Saturday that police believed Smollett paid two men to carry out the assault.
"We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation," the Chicago Police Department said in a statement. "We've reached out to the Empire cast member's attorney to request a follow-up interview."
CNN reported that police arrested two brothers on Wednesday in connection to their investigation. But the men were released after the discovery of "new evidence." The men are reportedly cooperating with law enforcement.
Smollet has denied that he played any part in the attack.
"As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," Smollett's attorney said in a statement to CNN. "He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."