ABC News and CBS Chicago are reporting that sources told them Empire actor Jussie Smollett paid brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo to stage the alleged homophobic and racist attack on him after a threatening letter that was sent to the Empire set did not receive enough attention. Police have not confirmed these reports.
The brothers are acquaintances of Smollett. One had worked as an extra on the Empire set, and the other was a personal trainer who had worked with the actor. They were reportedly paid $3500 to stage the attack.
The brothers told CBS Chicago: “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.”
CBS Chicago reports: ‘During the search of the brothers’ home last week, a “piece of paper/writing” was also seized. CBS 2 is the only news source with video from inside that house. Police evidence logs exclusively obtained by CBS 2, show investigators took the writing sample, magazine, and a “wallet with stamps.” Chicago police say the FBI is handling the investigation surrounding the letter, because that’s a federal-level concern.
CBS Chicago adds: ‘Sources say at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett’s request. The sources also say the “Empire” actor paid for the rope, which was purchased at the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in the Ravenswood neighborhood the weekend of Jan. 25. Sources said one of the brothers held the rope and poured bleach while the other wore a plain red hat and yelled slurs at Smollett. The sources say the red hat was bought at an Uptown beauty supply store and that the attack was supposed to happen before Jan. 29. The brothers told detectives the three men rehearsed the attack days prior to it happening. Smollett paid the brothers $3,500.’
TMZ reports that they rehearsed the attack: ‘Law enforcement sources tell TMZ, Abel and Ola Osundairo told cops they got in a car with Jussie and scouted a location, settling on the one right outside the actor’s apartment. The brothers said Jussie chose the spot because he believed a camera would have captured the action. Our sources say the brothers told police Jussie said he wanted to make it a “physical thing,” but not to the point he’d be seriously injured. On the night Jussie says he was attacked, the brothers claim they showed up at the scene but were extremely nervous because, just as they played out the scene, a car drove by and they were worried they’d be ID’d.’
Chicago police are interested in questioning Smollett again. He has so far refused.
Smollett’s attorneys on Saturday denied he paid the brothers to stage the attack, saying, “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.”
Smollett’s attorneys released a new statement late yesterday: “We are not going to respond to every new, anonymous accusation or rumor. Jussie Smollett’s lawyers are in contact with the Chicago Police Department. Jussie will continue to cooperate with the investigation in an appropriate and respectful manner that does not include talking to media at this time.”