CHICAGO (CelebrityAccess) Amid growing concerns that Jussie Smollett helped create a fake attack scenario that drew nationwide attention, attorney for the “Empire” actor have issued a statement denying that neither their client nor his acquaintances were in any way responsible for the situation.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” defense lawyers Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson said in a statement issued to media outlets yesterday.
Smollett has claimed that, during the early morning hours of Jan. 29, he was exiting a restaurant when two suspects began yelling racial and homophobic slurs at him. They then punched him and poured an unknown chemical substance over him that appeared to be bleach. One then allegedly wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck before the attackers fled the scene. Smollett, who plays gay musician Jamal Lyon on “Empire” and is a gay musician himself, drove himself to Northwestern Hospital with the rope still around his neck and was listed in good condition.
Smollett performed at Los Angeles’ Troubadour club that Saturday.
Smollett told authorities that the two men attacked him near the lower entrance of a Loews hotel, yelling “‘Empire’ fa***t” and “‘Empire’ n***er” while hitting him. He refuted reports that the attackers wore “Make America Great Again” hats” but did tell Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” that one said “This is MAGA country” and a racial slur before hitting him.
“And then, we started tussling, you know, it was very icy,” he said. “And we ended up tussling by the stairs, fighting, fighting, fighting. There was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back. Then it just stopped. And they ran off.”
Smollett said he was on a phone call with his manager at the time, who corroborated Smollett’s account of the incident from what he heard over the phone. He did not immediately hand the phone over phone because he wanted to protect private information on it.
Police reviewed video footage and released surveillance images that showed two silhouetted individuals walking down a sidewalk near Smollett’s apartment and said they were wanted for questioning. The two African-American men were arrested Wednesday and were released Friday evening because of “new evidence as a result of today’s investigations,” according to Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Gugilemi.
The two men, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, are apparently associates of Smollett, with Ola appearing on “Empire” as an extra in 2015 and both having minor roles on “Chicago PD.” Remarks by Smollett’s attorneys claim one was the actor’s “personal trainer” for a music video the actor performed in. A law enforcement official close to the police probe told Deadline Hollywood that “the new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident.” CNN also reported sources in the department that Smollett “paid two men to orchestrate the assault.”
The brothers, how hail from Nigeria, were arrested at O’Hare Airport upon arriving back to the U.S. from a trip to visit family there, according to the Daily Mail.
Sources close to the situation say that the brothers were paid $3,500 by Smollett before leaving for Nigeria and were promised another $500 upon return, according to WBBM-TV. Documents showed that the brothers bought rope at Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in Chicago that matched the rope around Smollett’s neck and that they had bought two generic red baseball hats. There were online rumors that Smollett staged the attack because he had learned that he was being written off “Empire” but executives from the show denied it.
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous,” said 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment on Valentine’s Day. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
Online sleuths have questioned the story from the beginning, noting, for instance, that the chemical substance that appeared to be bleach would have frozen in the sub-zero temperature of Chicago, which was in the middle of a polar vortex at the time or simply questioned why such an incident would occur at such a time and in such inclement weather. He was seen on surveillance video after the alleged attack carrying a Subway sandwich.
Filing a false report to police in the State of Illinois is considered an act of disorderly conduct, which is a Class 4 felony, according to Albawaba Entertainment.
Full Statement Issued By Jussie Smollett’s Attorneys:
As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.
One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.
Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to “unnamed” sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.