Brothers Involved in Jussie Smollett Case Express "Tremendous Regret"
Abel and Ola Osundairo are cooperating witnesses for the Chicago Police Department.
The two brothers who went from suspects to cooperating witnesses in the Jussie Smollett case have expressed "tremendous regret" over their role in the alleged hoax.
Abel and Ola Osundairo — whom police had initially brought in for questioning and were later released without charges — eventually claimed that the Empire actor paid them $3,500, via a check now in police custody, to stage the alleged hate crime assault that Smollett reported to Chicago police on Jan. 29. Chicago law enforcement said the brothers, who are acquaintances of Smollett, confessed to the entirety of the alleged plot during a "47th hour" interview with the two men when they were in their custody.
"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," the Osundairo brothers' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, told CNN in a statement on Thursday.
Chicago police concluded that Smollett was the architect of a "publicity stunt" hoax, arrested him and charged him with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, which carries a possible prison sentence. A grand jury was convened.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett was motivated by a "dissatisfaction" over his salary on the Fox drama Empire and has condemned his alleged behavior in public appearances and interviews. "Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," said Johnson in his press briefing.
The statement from the Osundairo brothers echoes Johnson's concerns and hopes that victims of hate crimes moving forward are not treated with "skepticism."
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police when he first reported the incident that his attackers yelled pro-"Make America Great Again" (MAGA) comments, along with racist and homophobic language before and during the beating. According to the police report, a chemical substance was poured on Smollett's face and a rope was placed around his neck. The Osundairo brothers, who are American-born and of Nigerian descent, were brought in by police as "persons of interest" from video footage, despite Smollett claiming in his police report and during a Good Morning America interview that his attackers were white-skinned.
When their identities were made public after their arrest, Abel and Ola Osundairo broke their silence to say, “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." Schmidt added at the time that “in due course, all the facts will reveal themselves and at the end of the day my clients are honest and credible."
Hollywood has been blindsided by the headline-making news story as it devolved, with initial support from those close to Smollett being replaced with skepticism and confusion. The Hollywood Reporter's cover story examining how the pressures of Hollywood fame may have played into Smollett's alleged behavior concluded that none of his Empire coworkers saw the arrest coming.
Smollett, who posted bail, has maintained his innocence and, via his lawyer, has vowed to mount an "aggressive defense." He is due back in court in March.