Two brothers who said they helped “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett stage what he had claimed was a racist and homophobic attack, have sued the celebrity’s lawyers for allegedly making statements about them they knew were untrue.
As it was reported that a prosecutor who decided to drop charges against the 36-year-old actor had received death threats, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, filed a suit accusing Mr Smollett’s legal team of defamation.
In a suit filed in Chicago on Tuesday against lawyer Mark Geragos, attorneys for the brothers claimed Mr Geragos and members of his team, continued to claim they had “led a criminally homophobic, racist and violent” attack, even after police said the incident was staged and all charges had been dropped.
The lawsuit claimed the lawyers’ repeated statements that Smollett told the truth all along and that the brothers were lying caused them “significant emotional distress”, and made them feel unsafe and alienated them from the local community.
“[Smollet] wanted his employer and the public to notice and appreciate him as a successful black, openly gay actor,” the lawsuit said. “So, Mr Smollett directed every aspect of the attack, including the location and the noose.”
The lawsuit did not specify an exact amount of money the brothers were seeking, but said it would it be more than $75,000 for “appropriate compensatory damages, punitive damages and costs” stemming from the alleged defamation. The brothers are of Nigerian descent.
“Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria, which can result in 14 years of imprisonment,” it said. “If the accused is married, the punishment is death by stoning.”
The incident that Smollett initially reported as a homophobic and racist attack, has divided and bemused people across the nation.
Initially the recipient of sympathy, opinion against the actor shifted after police arrested him and accused him of paying the two brothers to stage the attack.
The case took another twist when Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx decided to drop 16 charges against the actor. Her office said it instead would focus resources on violent crimes, a decision that triggered anger from the Chicago police department and mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the decision “a whitewash of justice”.
After charges were dropped, lawyers for Smollett said in a statement.“Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgement.”
ABC News reported that Ms Foxx, who claimed she had recused herself from the case after speaking to one of Smollett’s relatives, has now received death threats.
Her office told the news organisation: “We can confirm the state’s attorney has received threats to her personal safety and security, a number of which have contained racially charged language.”
With Associated Press