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Michael Avenatti is sent subpoena in latest twist in Jussie Smollett case

Avenatti, who awaits sentencing for trying to extort Nike, made overtures as he considered representing the Osundairo brothers, an attorney for the ex-”Empire” actor tells Sneed.

Attorney Michael Avenatti speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse last year.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A plot twist?

Sneed hears ferociously outspoken attorney Michael Avenatti, a headline grabber recently found guilty of attempting to extort the sports apparel goliath Nike, is listed in a subpoena request by attorneys for actor Jussie Smollett, who is awaiting trial for staging a phony hate crime against himself.

The subpoena requested Avenatti to produce “all documents related to any offers made by Avenatti on behalf of his clients, the Osundairo brothers — and any documentation for other offers made to Smollett on behalf of his clients requesting money for the Osundairos,” said William Quinlan, Smollett’s Chicago attorney.

Translation: Any offers might show if there was an attempt to get a financial payoff to maintain the brothers’ silence, Quinlan alleged.

A message left at Avenatti’s office Friday went unreturned.

In a federal defamation lawsuit filed last year, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo 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.”

Avenatti, whose representation of President Donald Trump antagonizer Stormy Daniels dispatched him into the TV talkie stratosphere, claimed last year he was once asked to consider assisting the two Osundairo brothers.

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for a hearing in February.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

In an interview last April with the legal news website Law & Crime, Avenatti stated: “I was contacted by the counsel for the [Osundairo] brothers and asked to consider coming into the case to assist them. I ultimately decided not to get involved.”

On March 3, 2019, Avenatti texted Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx: “I may be coming in to represent the brothers in the Smollett case. I know you recused yourself. Who is in charge that I can speak with?” — according to texts between Avenatti and Foxx’s office published by the Chicago Tribune.

Avenatti’s subpoena failed to be served because he is “still under house arrest awaiting sentencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Quinlan said, and not yet in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

In addition, “Unfortunately, we were also told Avenatti is not permitted to access electronic devices while under house arrest.”

Quinlan tells Sneed he plans to issue a new subpoena once a date for the new Smollett trial is set and plans to list Avenatti as a potential witness in the upcoming trial.

In February, a special grand jury indicted Smollett on six counts of felony disorderly conduct — once again accusing him of being behind the racist/homophobic attack on himself.

Earlier charges against Smollett, stemming from the initial attack, were suddenly dropped by Foxx’s office, prompting a special prosecutor, Dan K. Webb, to be appointed last August to examine how Foxx and her staff handled the case.

(Webb’s probe recently found Foxx and her associates misled the public and abused their discretion — but no criminal charges were warranted.)

Subsequently, a Cook County grand jury indicted Smollett. The city is also seeking to recover the overtime cost of the Chicago Police Department’s investigation of the alleged attack in federal court.

Meanwhile, Smollett quietly slipped into town several weeks ago to attend the funeral of Chicago organizer Ina Wilson, whose son, Phil, a Black Lives Matter movement director, was Smollett’s mentor since he was 15 years old, said Quinlan.

“Phil asked Jussie to sing at his mother’s funeral and he did,” he said. “Phil was one of the four people along with Rev. Jesse Jackson to write character reference letters for him during the legal proceedings,” added Quinlan.

Smollett, who claims he is in the process of cutting an album and working on directing a potential feature film, is scheduled to appear in a status hearing Thursday via Zoom in the courtroom of Criminal Court Judge James Linn on pre-trial motions for his upcoming trial.

Smollett is now living in New York.

Cooking with COVID . . .

Menu mayhem: It’s no secret the food industry has been hit with a gut punch by the pandemic.

Now the much loved Cafe Aroma, which inhabited a special place on a quiet corner in Winnetka, closed last week.

Its 16-year proprietress, Mitra Ryndak — who left Iran in 1979 during the country’s massive upheaval — was known as “the heart of the corner” for her kindness to the hidden less fortunate in one of the wealthiest villages on the city’s North Shore. She wanted her giving to remain anonymous. Now it’s not.

My fork is fallen; my spoon at rest.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: Michael Keaton, 69; Kat Graham, 31; and Rose McGowan, 47. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Idris Elba, 48; John Wall, 30; Pippa Middleton, 37; and attorney Bill Quinlan, 50.