Smollett lawyer focuses on brothers' role in attack
Empire star Jussie Smollett’s lawyer is trying to shift attention back to two brothers who told police they were paid by the actor to help stage a racist, anti-gay attack on him.
After all 16 charges were dropped against Smollett following allegations he paid the men to stage an assault, his lawyer Patricia Brown Holmes said investigators should look into the role of Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, who are of Nigerian descent.
Ms Holmes said: “The two men who attacked him have indicated that they attacked him, so we already know who attacked him.”
Authorities still believe Smollett concocted the attack in which he said two masked men beat him in Chicago on January 29.
He also claimed they said: “This is Maga country” – an apparent reference to US president Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
Smollett, who is black and gay, also said the men doused him with a chemical and put a noose around his neck. Smollett also told a detective that at least one of the attackers was white, according to Chicago police.
Cook County first assistant state’s attorney Joseph Magats told reporters that prosecutors dropped the case because Smollett forfeited a 10,000 dollar (£7,600) bond payment and carried out community service.
Mr Magats also said prosecutors needed to focus their time on violent crimes in Chicago.
Authorities have said Smollett created the hoax because he was unhappy with his pay on the Fox show and wanted to promote his career.
The Osundairo brothers told police that Smollett paid them 3,500 dollars (£2,650) to help stage the attack. Smollett said the 3,500 dollars paid to the brothers was for fitness training.
Prosecutors have said Smollett and Abel Osundairo, 25, became friends in 2017 and that Abel Osundairo was a stand-in for a character on Empire. Court documents said Olabinjo Osundairo, 27, also appeared as an extra in the show.
The two brothers were initially drawn into the investigation after police released grainy images of two “persons of interest” in the area the night of the attack.
Chicago police detained the brothers in mid-February at O’Hare International Airport after their return from Nigeria. They were questioned and their apartment in Chicago was searched.
Within days, police said the brothers were considered suspects in the attack. Then, the two men were abruptly released and were not charged with a crime.
They testified before a grand jury, and soon afterwards Smollett was charged with filing a false report of the attack.
The brothers’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, said then that the brothers did not testify as part of any plea deal with prosecutors and that they were not granted any immunity from prosecution.
Ms Schmidt said: “The Osundairo brothers were fully prepared to testify in any criminal proceeding in the Jussie Smollett case.”
In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this month, she said the brothers regretted their involvement.
She said: “It started by them having a relationship with Mr Smollett. Mr Smollett being in a position of power over them – him being this celebrity person who could pull strings for them and help them in their career.
“They were thinking: ‘I’m going to help my friend. He’s asking for this.'”
However, Smollett’s lawyer said the brothers had backed up the actor’s version of events.
Ms Holmes claimed: “The Osundairo brothers said more than once that the 3,500 dollar cheque they received was for exactly what Jussie said. They were his trainers.”