The two brothers involved in the alleged hoax attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett “were just taken advantage of by someone they trusted,” their attorney said Monday.
“This was someone who the brothers thought could help their career. … Someone they had trusted to consider their best interest,” Gloria Schmidt, who represents Chicago brothers Abindola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, said on “Good Morning America.”
Schmidt said the $3,500 check the brothers received, which was marked as a payment for a personal training program, was also intended, in a nuanced way, for the staged attack.
“They were paid for the training … but they were also asked to do this favor for him,” she told GMA anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Explaining further, Schmidt said: “If you’re friends, and I’m saying ‘Hey, I’m going to pay you for training, I’m also asking you to do me a favor’ … and the favor was to stage the attack.”
Schmidt said the brothers were not looking for anything in return from police for telling the truth and reiterated what she’s said previously: They regret their actions.
“So you’re confident this was a hoax?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I’m confident that they did not do a hate crime,” Schmidt replied.
“They’re working very hard right now to piece their lives together. … They know that this has impacted a lot of minority populations, so they’re working very hard to just move this in a positive direction,” she said.
TIMELINE: The Jussie Smollett investigation
The Osundairo brothers were, briefly, suspects in the attack Jan. 29 that Smollett described as racist and homophobic. Investigators say it was, in fact, staged — a hoax intended to generate publicity for the “Empire” actor, who was seeking a higher salary.
Chicago police investigated the case for three weeks, eventually identifying the two brothers with ties to Smollett — one had worked as his personal trainer, and both had been extras on episodes of “Empire” — as his “attackers.”
After 47 hours in police custody, the pair told police Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack in an effort to raise the actor’s profile and win him a higher salary for his role on the TV show.
The brothers were released without being charged.
Cook County prosecutors charged Smollett on Feb. 20 with felony disorderly conduct, the charge used for filing a false police report.
Smollett surrendered to police on Feb. 21 and has remained free on $100,000 bond.
On Friday, prosecutors expanded the charges to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct.
They include charges for each crime he said he had suffered, with separate counts related to statements he made the night of Jan. 29 to a police officer, and then for repeating the same account to a detective the same night. The charges all are Class 4 felonies, the lowest category of felony offense under Illinois law.
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