US

Brothers Say They Have ‘Tremendous Regret’ After Helping With Alleged Jussie Smollett Hoax

By Zachary Stieber

The Nigerian-American brothers who told the police that they helped “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett carry out a hate crime hoax said in a new statement that they have “tremendous regret.”

“My clients have tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation, and they understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves,” said Gloria Schmidt, the brothers’ attorney, in a statement obtained by CBS Chicago.

According to the Chicago Police Department, Smollett paid Abel and Ola Osundairo $3,500 to pretend to attack him in downtown Chicago on Jan. 29, while posing as supporters of President Donald Trump.

Smollett was arrested on Feb. 21 for filing a false police report.

The actor told police that two white men attacked him after recognizing him as a gay black man. The attackers shouted slurs and at one point yelled, “This is MAGA country,” referring to President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” Smollett claimed.

The actor was treated as a victim until the brothers, arrested on suspicion of being the attackers, revealed to detectives that the whole thing was a hoax, police officials said.

Smollett reportedly rehearsed the attack with the brothers several days prior to Jan. 29 and directed one to yell “This is MAGA country” to smear Trump supporters.

Previously, the Osundairos, who met Smollett while acting on “Empire” and one of whom became the actor’s personal trainer, said in a statement that they’re not racist.

Abel Osundairo, left, and his brother Ola Osundairo
Abel Osundairo, left, and his brother Ola Osundairo, in a file photo. The Nigerian brothers were arrested in connection with the alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett but were released after reportedly telling detectives Smollett paid them to stage the attack. (Team Abel/Instagram)
This image provided by the Chicago Police Department and taken from surveillance video shows two people of interest in an attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walking along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, early Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. The pair was later identified as Abel and Ola Osundairo. (Courtesy of Chicago Police Department via AP)

“We are not racist. We are not homophobic and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens,” they said on Feb. 18. “In due course, all the facts will reveal themselves, and at the end of the day, my clients are honest and credible,” added the brothers’ attorney, Schmidt.

However, two men who worked on the “Empire” show told Fox 32 that the brothers were homophobic. The witnesses said that they heard Abel use slurs on the set of the show in 2015.

“We were talking about friends and it was like ‘could you have a homosexual friend even though you were heterosexual?’ And he was just like ‘[expletive] no,’ he not gonna be friends with no[expletive],” said one witness, Ticarus Bunch, who played a prison guard on the show.

Speaking about another incident in which the brothers spoke with an extra who was openly gay, another witness, Lawrence Johnson, added: “These guys didn’t like it. They started picking with him. Moving his bag back and forth that he had on set with him.”

After the extra walked away, Johnson said Abel said: “I don’t want anybody like that around me. I can’t deal with that.”

The accounts dovetail with deleted tweets from Ola Osundairo’s Twitter account and a Smollett representative who told Fox reporter Rafer Weigel that Smollett’s defense team is going to go hard at the brothers’ credibility because their story “doesn’t add up.”

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson speaks during a press conference at police headquarters, in Chicago, on Feb. 21, 2019, after actor Jussie Smollett turned himself in on charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Jussie Smollett leaves jail
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail following his release, on Feb. 21, 2019, in Chicago. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photo)

Motivation

Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that investigators believe Smollett’s motivation was dissatisfaction with his salary on “Empire.”

“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” he told reporters after the actor was arrested.

“Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim,” Johnson added. “I’m offended by what’s happened and I’m also angry. This publicity stunt is a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Johnson said the wounds on Smollett’s face that were seen in a picture that circulated after the alleged attack were likely self-inflicted.

“They punched him a little but as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruises on his face were likely self-inflicted,” he said.