Jussie Smollett purposely misled police by saying assailants were white, lawsuit alleges

Aamer Madhani

CHICAGO — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett purposely attempted to mislead police by falsely describing alleged assailants who he said attacked him on a cold January night as white men, the city of Chicago claimed in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday.

The allegation comes in a lawsuit filed by the city, which is attempting to force the actor to pay back more than $130,000 they say the police department spent in overtime costs to investigate a supposed hoax attack set up by the actor.

Smollett, 36, who is black and gay, allegedly hired two brothers — Abel and Ola Osundairo — to stage an assault on him and make it look like a hate crime, police and prosecutors say.

The actor told investigators that his attackers yelled homophobic and racist slurs at him, and also screamed “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan. Smollett said the attack happened near his apartment in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood on Jan. 29.

Smollett told officers that the primary attacker “was wearing a ski mask that covered his entire face, with the exception of the area around his eyes, by which (Smollett) could tell the attacker was white-skinned,” according to the city’s lawsuit. The brothers are black.

“(Smollett) made this statement despite knowing that the Osundairo Brothers are not white-skinned,” the lawsuit says. “By providing this false description, (Smollett) purposely misled the CPD officers to believe that his attackers were white, when, in fact, (Smollett) knew that his attackers were the Osundairo brothers.”

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The complaint recounts many of the details that prosecutors and police laid out in court and in public statements in February when they charged Smollett with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He was later indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts of disorderly conduct.

For weeks, the police investigators treated Smollett as a victim, and were on the verge of charging the Osundairo brothers for the assault.

The brothers, who were arrested more than two weeks after the incident upon returning to O’Hare International Airport from an overseas trip, reportedly laid out for investigators how they worked with Smollett to carry out the alleged hoax attack as they were on the cusp of being charged. They said Smollett paid them $3,500 to carry out the alleged fake assault.

After the brothers statements, police charged Smollett for filing the false police report.

The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, however, made the surprise announcement on March 26 that it was dropping charges against Smollett, less than three weeks after he had been indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct.

Smollett agreed to forfeit $10,000 that he put up in bond money to secure his release after his arrest.

The decision by Foxx was slammed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a “whitewash of justice” and criticized by Chicago Police Department officials and the Fraternal Order of Police. A group of suburban Chicago police chiefs last week called on Foxx to resign.

One of Smollett’s attorneys, Mark Geragos, responded to the city last week that he would insist on questioning Emanuel, who leaves office next month, and Johnson and other officials if they pushed forward with the lawsuit.

“Your claim that Smollett filed a false police report and orchestrated his own attack is false and defamatory,” the letter said.

A spokeswoman for Smollett’s legal team on Thursday declined to comment.

Police investigators told Smollett in February that they had identified the Osundairo brothers as the assailants, according to the civil complaint.

Smollett “made further false statements by claiming that his only relationship with the Osundairo Brothers was as trainers and social acquaintances,” and told police they “could not have been his attackers,” the complaint says.

Smollett had actually struck a friendship with Abel Osundairo, who worked on the set of “Empire” with the actor, in 2017, according to the complaint.

“(Smollett) and Abel socialized and exercised together, and (Smollett) occasionally asked for Abel’s assistance in obtaining recreational drugs,” the city alleges in the lawsuit.

Violation of Chicago’s false statement ordinance allows the city to collect up to three times the amount of damages the city sustains as a result of the violation.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jussie Smollett purposely misled police by saying assailants were white, lawsuit alleges