The two brothers believed to have been involved in actor Jussie Smollett’s alleged hate crime hoax feel that the “Empire” star “betrayed” them, their attorney said during an interview with CBS News this week.
Smollett, 36, was indicted on 16 counts last week over claims that he lied about being attacked in a racist hate crime on January 29. He had initially told police that two men yelled slurs at him before beating him and leaving a noose around his neck as he was leaving a Subway restaurant in the middle of the night. Police arrested two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, last month over the alleged attack, but released them without charges days later; shortly afterward, authorities accused Smollett of hiring the two men to help stage a fake attack, all in an effort to strengthen his career.
Gloria Schmidt, attorney for the Osundairo brothers, told CBS News on Monday that her clients feel Smollett “betrayed” them and that they are “tremendously regretful” for their involvement in the incident.
“All the other peripherals are outside of their main focus right now, which is to, you know, pick up the pieces of what this has done to their lives and to try to make this something positive, try to make something positive for them and have a positive impact on the community,” she said.
Schmidt said that the two brothers did not commit a hate crime, and confirmed that neither party is facing charges in the case. Their mistake was trusting the “wrong person,” Schmidt said.
“What I can tell you is, primarily, that this entire thing started because they put their trust in the wrong person. Everyone wants to know, well, 'At what time did they get detained,' or 'Was it at customs at O’Hare [Airport]?' Listen, this started way before that,” she said. “You have someone here who is a celebrity type, someone who is in a position of trust, someone who works with these people, someone who’s able to help their careers if he so wants to, and he betrays them. So, the impact that this has had, not only on them but on minority populations, that weighs very heavily on them.”
Chicago police claimed during a press conference last month that Smollett staged the attack because he was not happy with his current salary. However, Smollett has maintained his innocence amid a flurry of backlash, with his attorney Mark Geragos telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday that police never spoke to anyone at 20th Century Fox about Smollett’s alleged dissatisfaction with his “Empire” salary. Geragos contends that Smollett is, in fact, a “victim of a hate crime,” and has also become a victim of a “media gangbang.”
“I’ve never seen a media pendulum swing more quickly and viciously and rob somebody of their presumption of innocence like this case. It’s startling the way people assume he’s guilty,” he said.
Smollett, after initially being charged with filing a false police report, was indicted last week on 16 felony counts, in accordance to the number of lies authorities believe he told to police, according to legal analyst Irv Miller, with Chicago’s CBS 2.
“If you have a crime, and that crime has multiple parts to it, you charge all those separate parts,” he explained.
Smollett, who Miller says faces anything from probation to three years in prison if convicted, is scheduled to appear in court for his arraignment on March 14, the outlet reports.
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