Empire actor Terrence Howard: reports that Jussie Smollett staged attack are ‘devastating’

• Actor &apos denies he knew until 2 days ago that Smollett has in fact been attacked • Howard visits Smollett in hospital • Smollett's family plan to continue manhunt for attackers Terrence Howard,…

Empire actor Terrence Howard: reports that Jussie Smollett staged attack are 'devastating'

• Actor &apos denies he knew until 2 days ago that Smollett has in fact been attacked • Howard visits Smollett in hospital • Smollett's family plan to continue manhunt for attackers

Terrence Howard, the co-star of the hit musical drama Empire, says reports that Jussie Smollett staged his own “non-violent” attack are “devastating”.

Howard, who plays Smollett’s boss on the show, released a statement on Monday offering his support to the 36-year-old. Smollett has said he was targeted by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs while beating him around the head last Wednesday. The actor, who is black and openly gay, initially said he had been attacked by two men dressed as members of a hate group, whom he described as “MAGA” hat-wearing white men.

Police, however, have since cast doubt on his story, and Smollett’s original injuries have been reclassified as the result of physical violence. Last week, they questioned two brothers who allegedly accompanied Smollett to the scene, but the men were released without being charged.

Smollett will have a possible second hearing on 20 January, where prosecutors will argue the actor should remain jailed for filing a false police report. The actor recently raised $100,000 in bail on his own, after prosecutors determined there were enough reasons to jail him longer.

“They’re very tough people, the prosecutors,” Howard told KTLA. “You’ve got the police but not the DA’s office is very tough on cases. So I think the prosecutors will come out hard.”

Terrence Howard said in a statement: “It is impossible to understand. As a father and a friend, I am devastated. I am brokenhearted. This is not who Jussie is. This is not who I know Jussie to be.”

Smollett’s family released their own statement last week, which read: “The family thanks everyone for their love and support and asks for prayers as they deal with these recent developments. Thank you.”

Police said they have still not found the $3,500 check Smollett claimed was written to the brothers, who will likely be called as “performers” and not “interviewees” for their part in the alleged hoax. Detectives still believe Smollett may still have a connection to the case and want to question him, but may hold off until he is released from jail.

Police believe the two brothers, who were released without charge last week, may have more to say. “Why are they still being cooperative?” said superintendent of the Chicago police department, Eddie Johnson. “We all knew that there was more to this story.”

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