Brothers Accused of Attacking Jussie Smollett Sue for Defamation

By Pilar.Melendez@thedailybeast.com (Pilar Melendez)
REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

The Chicago brothers who were questioned by police in the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett have sued two of his attorneys for defamation, insisting the assault was “a hoax entirely conceived and directed by” the Empire actor.

Abel and Ola Osundairo filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Tuesday morning, alleging Smollett’s attorneys, Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian, knowingly made false statements about their role in the hoax “to distract from Mr. Smollett’s farce and to promote themselves” and their law firm.

The suit alleges that Geragos and his firm continued to publicly peddle the narrative that the brothers “led a criminally homophobic, racist and violent attack against Mr. Smollett” even after the investigation had ended.

“Mr. Geragos’ statements were made after the close of Mr. Smollett’s criminal case, did not serve any legal function, and were not a requirement of his job as a defense attorney,” the complaint states, adding that the comments have caused “considerable damage to [brother’s] careers, as they have lost talent agent contracts and career opportunities.”

Smollett alleged that on Jan. 29, two men beat him up and put a rope around his neck before pouring an unknown chemical on him as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop in Chicago around 2 a.m. The actor also alleged the two men shouted homophobic and racist slurs during the incident.

The new lawsuit alleges that four days prior to filing a police report, Smollett told the brothers he “needed a favor from them.” “They were to help him stage a social media hoax and pretend to attack him” because he “wanted his employer and the public to notice and appreciate him as a successful Black, openly gay actor,” the lawsuit states.

Chicago police immediately launched an investigation into the “possible hate crime,” but could not find video evidence of the described incident. A day after the attack, investigators released surveillance camera photos of the Osundario brothers, describing them as “potential persons of interests.” They were eventually taken into custody by police and questioned on February 15.

While being questioned, the brothers told police the actor paid them $3,500 to help stage the attack—and even reimbursed them for the rope. In a surveillance video, the brothers and Smollett appear to be seen buying a red hat and ski masks at a convenience store the day before the alleged assault.

“Mr. Smollett used his clout as a wealthy actor to influence [the brothers], who were in a subordinate relationship to him and were aspiring to ‘make it’ in Hollywood,” the lawsuit claims.

Police released the Osundairo brothers without charges “as there was verification and in-depth corroboration that the ‘attack’ was a hoax entirely conceived and directed by Mr. Smollett,” the lawsuit states.

Chicago police charged Smollett in February with one felony count of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a fake police report. Less than a month later, a Cook County grand jury increased the charges to over a dozen felony counts after police alleged Smollett staged the hate crime.

But in a shocking move, Cook County prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett on March 26.

Amid outrage over the charges being dropped, Glandian suggested in a March 28 Today show interview that the brothers “may have been wearing ‘whiteface’ while attacking Mr. Smollett–again stating Plaintiffs battered Mr. Smollett and adding the implication that this battery was a hate crime,” the lawsuit states.

The documents also claim that Glandian alleged in an April 6 Reasonable Doubt podcast episode that Abimbola Osundairo and Smollett “engaged, at least briefly, in homosexual acts together”—a claim both brothers vehemently deny.

“We have sat back and watched lie after lie being fabricated about us in the media only so one big lie can continue to have life,” the brothers said in a Tuesday statement obtained by The Daily Beast.“We will no longer sit back and allow these lies to continue.”

The brothers, who are both trainers, “have suffered significant emotional distress and feel unsafe and alienated in their local Chicago community,” according to the lawsuit, which adds that these two “very famous attorneys” have “falsely and publicly stated [the brothers] have committed a gruesome hate crime, lied under oath, and intentionally misled CPD.”

“We want to end these malicious attacks and ensure that those responsible for continuing to destroy the reputation of the Chicago Police Department and Abel and Ola Osundairo are held accountable,” Osundairos’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, said in a Tuesday press conference announcing the lawsuit.

“My city, my police department and my clients deserve to have their reputations restored,” she added. “The Chicagoan brothers told the truth. They could have remained silent, but they told the truth to the police, and with their right hands in the air, they told the truth to the grand jury.”

The Geragos & Geragos Law Firm called the lawsuit a “comical legal document” in a statement to The Daily Beast Tuesday.

“At first we thought this comical legal document was a parody. Instead this so-called lawsuit by the brothers is more of their lawyer driven nonsense, and a desperate attempt for them to stay relevant and further profit from an attack they admit they perpetrated,” the statement said. “While we know this ridiculous lawsuit will soon be dismissed because it lacks any legal footing, we look forward to exposing the fraud the Osundairo brothers and their attorneys have committed on the public.”

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