Brothers in Jussie Smollett case say they will co-operate with prosecutors
Two brothers who admitted helping actor Jussie Smollett stage a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago say they are willing to co-operate with prosecutors.
It is another twist in the story after the pair initially told prosecutors in the case that they would no longer help them.
Lawyer Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez said Abimbola (Abel) and Olabinjo (Ola) Osundairo changed their minds after a 9mm handgun that was seized during a search of their home last year was located after it went missing.
“Abel and Ola will recommence their co-operation in the Smollett case now that the handgun has been produced by the Special Prosecutor’s Office,” Ms Schmidt Rodriguez wrote, referring to special prosecutor Dan Webb, who is now handling the case.
The two, she wrote in a separate letter to Mr Webb, “stand ready to testify at trial”.
The U-turn by the brothers came just hours after various media outlets reported that they were, according to their lawyer, finished co-operating because of the missing gun and their feeling that the police department’s lawyers were treating them like suspects.
One legal expert called that threat hollow from the outset because the brothers had already given evidence before a grand jury, meaning that if they stood firm prosecutors could simply read it out in court.
“What they said is already under oath on paper,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law.
Mr Erickson said if the brothers went into court and refused to give evidence during trial, there was nothing stopping the judge from holding them in contempt and nothing stopping prosecutors for charging them for their admitted role in what authorities say was a staged attack.
The threat to not co-operate was the latest development in a strange story that has taken a host of unexpected turns since January 2019, when Smollett, a black and openly gay actor who worked on the TV show Empire, reported to police that two masked men had approached him in Chicago, made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing.
The story included Smollett’s contention that his attackers told him he was in “MAGA Country”, a reference to US President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
There was national attention on the case, both when the incident occurred and later when police alleged Smollett staged the attack with the help of the brothers to drum up publicity for his career.
Smollett, who allegedly paid the brothers to help him stage the attack, was charged with lying to police before the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced it was dropping the charges.
A judge subsequently ordered a special prosecutor to investigate, and the special prosecutor later secured another indictment against Smollett. Smollett has maintained his innocence.