Brothers in Jussie Smollett case file defamation suit against actor's legal team

Ola and Abel Osundairo were paid by Smollett to attack him Jan. 29, Chicago police said.
Image: Smollett-US-Entertainment-TELEVISION-crime-SMOLLETT
Jussie Smollett attends Leighton Criminal Court with his attorney Tina Glandian on March 14, 2019, in Chicago.E. Jason Wambsgans / Pool via AFP - Getty Images file

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By Minyvonne Burke and Andrew Blankstein

The two brothers who Chicago police say were paid by Jussie Smollett to attack him in a staged hate crime to bolster his career filed a federal lawsuit against the "Empire" actor's attorneys claiming they made defamatory comments.

In the 16-page suit filed Tuesday in the Northern District of Illinois, Ola and Abel Osundairo accuse lawyers Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian of making "public defamatory statements" against them after Chicago prosecutors dropped charges against Smollett.

The suit also claims that Smollett staged the attack because he "wanted his employer and the public to notice and appreciate him as a successful Black, openly gay actor."

“We will no longer sit back and allow these lies to continue," the brothers said in a statement their attorney, Gloria Schmidt, read at a news conference.

According to the complaint, shortly after the charges were dismissed, Glandian said during television interviews and on a podcast that Smollett was innocent and that Ola and Abel Osundairo "criminally attacked" the actor. The lawsuit said she also falsely accused the brothers of wearing whiteface during the Jan. 29 assault and implied that Abel Osundairo had a brief homosexual relationship with Smollett.

Geragos, according to the suit, "falsely stated that he could not think of anyone else who committed the hate crime."

Ola and Bola Osundairovia Strategia Consulting LLC

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Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that his attackers hurled racial and homophobic slurs before beating him, tying a noose around his neck, and pouring what he said was bleach on him.

Ola and Abel Osundairo were arrested in February after an image taken from a surveillance camera showed them walking away from the area where Smollett said he was attacked by two masked men.

Days after the brothers' arrest, they were released by police as the probe shifted into whether the actor orchestrated the assault on himself.

Smollett, 36, was labeled a suspect in the investigation and arrested in February. The following month, he was indicted on 16 felony counts for allegedly making a false report in the assault police called a hoax.

According to the Chicago Police Department, Smollett paid the brothers — who have ties to the show "Empire" — $3,500 via a check to attack him because he was unhappy with his salary on the Fox TV show.

The charges against Smollett were dropped weeks later by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, but the lawsuit states the actor's legal team continued to accuse the Osundairo brothers of lying.

"We want to end these malicious attacks and ensure that those responsible for continuing to destroy the reputation of the Chicago Police Department, city of Chicago and that of brothers are held accountable," Ola and Abel Osundairo's attorney said at the news conference.

Geragos and Glandian released a joint statement Tuesday afternoon calling the lawsuit "ridiculous" and said they know it will be dismissed because it "lacks any legal footing."

"At first we thought this comical legal document was a parody," they said. "Instead this so-called lawsuit by the brothers is more of their lawyer driven nonsense, and a desperate attempt for them to stay relevant and further profit from an attack they admit they perpetrated."

Schmidt said that her clients know what they did was wrong, but did not take part in defrauding the Chicago Police Department.

“They were asked to do something by a friend that they trusted and at the end of the day, that friend betrayed them,” she said.

As a result of Geragos and Glandian's remarks, the Osundairo brothers "have suffered significant emotional distress and feel unsafe and alienated in their local Chicago community," the lawsuit states. They are seeking unspecified damages.