Alleged attackers ‘have a relationship’ with Jussie Smollett
Two Nigerian brothers who “have a relationship” with “Empire” star Jussie Smollett have been arrested in the alleged hate attack on the TV actor — further fueling speculation he staged it, Chicago police said Friday.
The two men — budding models and actors Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo — are being held on suspicion of assault and battery, according to TMZ.
“Detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement.
The development came as it surfaced that one of the Osundairo brothers arrested was charged with attempted murder in 2011, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday.
The unidentified sibling eventually reached a plea deal in the Chicago stabbing, copping to aggravated battery, and received two years probation.
Chicago cops said both suspects “have a relationship” with Smollett. Their lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, said the brothers have worked on Smollett’s hit Fox drama and that the three of them are gym buddies who worked out together.
Ola played a prison inmate on “Empire” and had a part on the NBC series “Chicago PD” last year, according to TMZ and his IMDB page.
Smollett is one of the brothers’ nearly 19,000 followers on their joint Instagram account, which features photos of the duo pumping iron.
Smollett, 36, plays Jamal Lyon — the gay son of hip-hop mogul Lucious and his wife, Cookie, who struggles to win his father’s approval — on the Golden Globe-nominated show.
Smollett, who is also a singer-songwriter, is gay.
Friday’s developments in the case were only the latest twist in the dramatic, made-for-TV saga that began Jan. 29, when the alleged attack took place — and has since created a firestorm of controversy, including spawning theories that the entire incident was a hoax perpetrated by Smollett to save himself from getting written off the show.
Smollett has said he had just flown back to Chicago, where he lives in the ritzy Streeterville neighborhood, and popped out around 2 a.m. to grab a bite to eat for himself and his creative director, Frank Gatson.
Smollett said he was on the phone with his manager, Brandon Z. Moore, and crossing the street when someone suddenly snarled, “Empire.”
“And I don’t answer to ‘Empire.’ My name ain’t ‘Empire,’ ”Smollett said Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I kept walking, and then I heard, ‘F—-t, Empire n—-r.’ So, I turned around and I said, ‘The f–k did you just say to me?’ ”
That’s when one of the two suspects shouted “This is MAGA country, n—-r!” — a reference to President Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” — and punched him in the face, Smollett said.
The trio began tussling near a set of stairs on East Lower North Water Street before the men bolted on foot, the actor said.
Smollett said he called Moore and told him, “I was just jumped!” — and then noticed a rope around his neck.
“I started screaming, I said, ‘There’s a f—ing rope around my neck!’ ” he said.
He admitted that he was reluctant to report the attack to police.
“Victim did not want to report offense, however, he believed it to be in the best interest to,” the police report said.
The responding officers arrived at Smollett’s home “to find him with white rope draped around neck” and stained clothing from a “chemical substance” Smollett said the men doused him with, the police report said.
He alluded on “GMA” that his attackers were white.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel the doubters would’ve supported me a lot much more,” he said. “That says a lot about the place that we are in this country right now.”
Several other issues with Smollett’s story also have popped up.
The official police report, based on his account, makes no mention of the actor’s alleged attackers shouting, “This is MAGA country, n—-r.” It only indicates that they yelled, “Empire, f—-t, n—-r.”
The alleged beatdown occurred in an obscured part of the street where there are no surveillance cameras.
Smollett also has been unable or unwilling to provide details of his attackers, whom he only said were masked and dressed in all black.
“I can’t tell you what color their eyes were, and I did not see anything except the second person I saw running away,” Smollett said. “And the first person, I saw his stature. I gave the description as best as I could.”
Smollett has also been scrutinized for not immediately turning over his phone records to corroborate his story — and only handing over heavily redacted copies 13 days after the incident.
He has defended the move, saying it was to protect his privacy.
Abel and Ola reportedly flew from the US to Nigeria the day of the incident and were then arrested between 5 and 8 p.m. Wednesday at O’Hare International Airport after flying back to Chicago, Guglielmi said.
The busts of the “Empire”-linked actors fueled reports by Chicago’s ABC and CBS affiliates, which cited numerous sources saying that the brothers helped Smollett stage the attack because he was about to be written off the show.
That theory has been heavily disputed by both police and 21st Century Fox Television executives.
Police also have issued statements reiterating that Smollett is being treated as a “victim” and not a “suspect.”
When police raided the brothers’ Chicago home, they seized bleach, a “black face-mask hat” and other items, cops said.
Schmidt said they were in no way involved in the attack.
“They are baffled about why they are people of interest,” the attorney told CBS News. “It’s an awful thing that happened to Jussie, but it’s not my guys.”
Grainy surveillance from the area did capture two men walking along a nearby street just before the incident.
Police have not confirmed whether the Osundairo brothers are the men in the surveillance photo, but Smollett has said he is certain that the pair in the footage whoever they are — are responsible for his assault.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them,” he said. “Never did.”
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