“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett tried to mislead the Chicago Police Department by saying his attackers were white, according to a civil lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago.
Smollett, 36, claimed shortly after the alleged attack against him on Jan. 29 that two men dressed in black and wearing ski masks assaulted him after shouting racial slurs. He claimed that the men were supporters of President Donald Trump.
But police later arrested two black brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo. According to the police, Smollett paid the brothers—who he knew personally and hired previously as personal trainers—$3,500 to stage the attack and pretend to beat him up.
The staged attack included instructions on posing as Trump supporters.
According to prosecutors, Smollett told Ola Osundairo to yell “This is MAGA country” while placing a rope around his neck, in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) slogan.
While “MAGA” is known as a shortening of the slogan, it’s rarely said aloud in place of the full slogan, making the quote appear awkward. With Chicago being heavily liberal, along with most other American cities, it was one of the aspects of the alleged attack that first ignited people’s doubts.
Prosecutors also said that Smollett told the brothers to yell slurs at him and that Abel Osundairo, the other brother, should “attack him, but not hurt him too badly.”
Smollett told police that the primary attacker “was wearing a ski mask that covered his entire face, with the exception of the area around his eyes, by which [Smollett] could tell the attacker was white-skinned,” according to the lawsuit.
“(Smollett) made this statement despite knowing that the Osundairo Brothers are not white-skinned,” the suit says. “By providing this false description, [Smollett] purposely misled the CPD officers to believe that his attackers were white, when, in fact, [Smollett] knew that his attackers were the Osundairo brothers.”
“At no point did Defendant inform police that he knew his attackers or recognized their appearances or voices,” the suit added.
His legal team said that the Osundairos did attack Smollett but claimed that they wore “whiteface” to disguise themselves and that Smollett did not recognize their voices despite phone records showing Smollett was on the phone with one of them shortly before and after the alleged attack.
Tina Glandian, one of the actor’s attorneys, was asked during an appearance on ABC about Smollett’s original claims.
“Just to be clear he only saw one of his attackers,” Glandian responded. “He saw through the ski mask—again he could not see his body, everything was covered and he had a ski mask on, except the area around the eyes—he did tell police that he, from what he saw, he thought it was pale skin, or, white or pale skin.”
“He could have said I don’t know,” Guthrie said. “But the Osundairo brothers, what are the chances that that’s the case, that he saw somebody with white skin?” she added. The Osundairos are Americans of Nigerian descent.
“Well you know, I mean, I think obviously you can disguise that. You can put makeup on, there is actually interestingly enough a video—I think police did minimal investigation in this case—it took me all of five minutes to Google, I was looking up the brothers, and one of the first videos that showed up was the brothers in whiteface doing the Joker monologue.”