Jussie Smollett Denies He Staged His Own Assault, Nigerian Brothers Olabinjo & Abimbola Osundairo Released
Smollett, through his attorneys, denies the reports that claim the attack was a hoax and adds that he is being “further victimized.”
“Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” says a statement by his attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson.
After Chicago police arrested and released two men involved in the alleged attack, multiple sources, including CBS, CNN and ABC, reported that law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation believe Smollett paid two men to stage the attack.
The men, who police have identified as Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were in custody after being picked up at O’Hare Airport Wednesday.
The brothers and persons of interest were arrested and questioned but ultimately released. They are said to be fully cooperating with law enforcement.
Case Update: Due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete. pic.twitter.com/Hswn1Qjgcy
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 16, 2019
While police are still investigating, CBS Chicago reported the actor paid the brothers $3,500 to commit the attack, with an additional $500 promised after they returned from their trip to Nigeria.
According to the statement released by Smollet’s legal team, one of the brothers was a personal trainer the actor hired to get prepared for a music video. At least one of the brothers was also an Empire extra from an earlier season.
“It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity,” the statement read.
The brother’s lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, has confirmed that they both knew Smollett.
“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,” continued the statement by Smollett’s legal team.
Last month, the 36-year-old actor told Chicago police he was attacked in the city by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him. They put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him before fleeing the scene.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, also said that the attackers made a reference to “MAGA country,” referring to President Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Officials said at the time they were investigating the case as a possible hate crime.
Statement on #ChicagoPolice hate crime investigation. We are taking these allegations very seriously and encourage anyone with information to report anonymously to https://t.co/yYAqzcVIfu pic.twitter.com/DxipALHXaz
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 29, 2019
The new developments come a day after a media report sparked speculation that Smollett was potentially involved in staging the attack because his character on Empire was being written off.
20th Century Fox, the studio behind Empire, denied that Smollett might be written off the show, calling him a “core player on this very successful series.”
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.” – STATEMENT FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX TELEVISION AND FOX ENTERTAINMENT
— 20th Century Fox TV (@20centuryfoxTV) February 15, 2019
Still, the attack has been met with much skepticism online, as authorities have not unveiled evidence to back up Smollett’s account.
On Thursday, Smollett gave his first detailed account of the attack and the aftermath in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
During the interview, Smollett was adamant that his story was true and expressed frustration at not being believed. “I’m pissed off,” he said, referring to the doubts cast about his account. “It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks. At first, it was a thing of, if I tell the truth, that’s it, because it’s the truth. Then it became a thing of like, oh, how can you doubt that? How do you not believe that? It’s the truth. And then it became a thing of, oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.”
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more,” the actor said. “And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now.”
He also told Robin Roberts that he never said that his attackers were wearing “MAGA” hats and that he didn’t need to add that detail as a “cherry on top of a racist sundae.”
The day after the alleged incident, police released surveillance images that showed two silhouetted individuals walking down a sidewalk. Smollett told Roberts he was sure that those men in the surveillance images were his attackers.
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 31, 2019
“Because I was there,” Smollett said. “For me, when that was released, I was like, ‘Okay, we’re getting somewhere.’ I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.”
Despite recent developments in the investigation, detectives have more follow-ups to complete which include “speaking to the individual who reported the incident,” referring to Smollett.
While we are not in a position to confirm, deny or comment on the validity of what's been unofficially released, there are some developments in this investigation and detectives have some follow-ups to complete which include speaking to the individual who reported the incident. pic.twitter.com/b9GgXbSUt9
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 17, 2019
Smollett’s lawyers said the actor would “continue to cooperate” and that they “have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside of the investigation.”
His case is set to go before a grand jury early next week, according to a new report. Who is facing charges and what those charges might be continue to remain unknown.