The two brothers initially considered suspects in the Jussie Smollett hate crime investigation filed a defamation lawsuit against the “Empire” actor’s attorneys Tuesday, alleging that those lawyers made several false remarks about them after criminal charges against Smollett were dropped.
In a federal lawsuit, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo also contend that Smollett paid them “a sum of money to stage the attack [against Smollett] to benefit himself” and “directed every aspect of the attack, including the location and the noose.”
The brothers were initially arrested as suspects in the alleged January attack on Smollett, only to be released later. They make the claim in the lawsuit against two of Smollett’s defense attorneys, Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian, who continued to say in media appearances that the brothers engaged in the attack.
Geragos and Glandian, in a statement, called the lawsuit a “comical legal document.”
“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,” they 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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In a controversial move last month, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped all criminal charges against Smollett over the allegedly faked hate crime after he paid $10,000 and performed community service.
The brothers contend in the lawsuit that “Mr. Smollett used his clout as a wealthy actor to influence Plaintiffs, who were in a subordinate relationship to him and were aspiring to ‘make it’ in Hollywood.”
The brothers add: “Mr. Smollett’s motivation was simple. He wanted his employer and the public to notice and appreciate him as a successful black, openly gay actor. So, Mr. Smollett directed every aspect of the attack, including the location and the noose.”
Smollett initially told police he was attacked Jan. 29 by masked men while walking home in the Streeterville neighborhood. Smollett said his attackers put a noose around his head, beat him up, poured some liquid on him, yelled “This is MAGA country” and used racial and homophobic slurs.
Smollett was initially treated as a victim by police, but detectives continued to investigate, and Smollett was charged in March with 16 felonies in connection with staging a fake hate crime.
TIMELINE: Key dates in the Smollett case
Smollett has remained steadfast that he is innocent. The brothers are not suing Smollett himself, as the actor’s lawyers continued to maintain in media appearances that the brothers were responsible for the attack, with Glandian going so far to suggest the two men may have been wearing “whiteface” to disguise their identities during the attack.
The lawsuit also contends Glandian suggested on a podcast that Smollett and Abimbola Osundairo briefly engaged in homosexual acts. The lawsuit contends that suggestion caused Abimbola Osundairo severe distress. He is heterosexual, was dating a woman at the time and liked visiting his family in Nigeria, where same-sex activity is illegal and can result in 14 years in prison or “death by stoning” if the accused is married, according to the lawsuit.
Glandian also is alleged to have said on the podcast that the brothers engaged in illegal steroid trafficking, which the body-building brothers deny.
James Tunick, one of the attorneys for the Osundairo brothers, said at a press conference Tuesday morning: “There’s a big difference between self-serving statements and actual evidence.”
The decision to drop charges against Smollett gave way to intense skepticism of the Cook County courts system, which was a factor in deciding to file the lawsuit in federal court, according to Gregory Kulis, another attorney for the Osundairo brothers.
“We filed in the United States District Court because there, we believe, we will get a fair venue,” Kulis said. “People question what happened in Cook County. People question what happened in the courts system. The answers will be given. The answers will be availed in federal court where, we believe, that as an independent venue, we will have the facts come out as they should.”
Gloria Schmidt, another of the Osundairos’ attorneys, acknowledged that the two were initially complicit in Smollett’s alleged scheme, but she stressed that neither brother had a role “in defrauding the police department.”
“As far as their participation in this publicity stunt, they’ve realized that it was wrong,” Schmidt said. “They’ve apologized for it and they’ve expressed, more than once, that they are tremendously regretful for the role that they played in it.”
Contributing: Stefano Esposito