Abel and Ola Osundairo, the brothers accused of attacking Jussie Smollett in January — then later accused of helping him stage the alleged hate crime hoax — have filed a defamation lawsuit against the "Empire" star's attorneys, Tina Glandian and Mark Geragos, and Geragos' firm, Fox News has learned.
The suit alleges that Geragos and his firm continued to say publicly in widely reported statements that the brothers "led a criminally homophobic, racist and violent attack against Mr. Smollett," even though they allegedly knew that wasn't true.
The brothers are seeking punitive damages as well as lost income in the lawsuit.
The Osundairos' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, quoted Smollett, 36, in a press conference Tuesday in Chicago, telling reporters, "'I will never be the man that this did not happen to. I will be forever changed.'" She said of her clients and the Chicago Police Department, "Now they can say that same statement. My city, my police department and my clients deserve to have their reputations restored."
Schmidt slammed Geragos and Glandian's alleged "continued false statements and hateful rhetoric" against the brothers following the alleged hoax.
"That is why today we are taking action in federal court," she said. "We want to end these malicious attacks and ensure that those responsible for continuing to destroy the reputation of the Chicago Police Department and Abel and Ola Osundairo are held accountable."
"The Chicagoan brothers told the truth," Schmidt said. "They could have remained silent, but they told the truth to the police, and with their right hands in the air, they told the truth to the grand jury." She later said they were "asked to do something by a friend that they trusted, and later that friend betrayed their trust."
In a statement Schmidt read during the press conference, the brothers said, "We have sat back and watched lie after lie being fabricated about us in the media only so one big lie can continue to have life. These lies are destroying our character and our reputation and our personal and professional lives. Those who know us personally know we don't have hate for anyone. That is not who we are. We try to spread love and positivity to everyone we come in contact with. We will no longer sit back and allow these lies to continue."
Schmidt also noted that the Osundairos actively participated in the alleged publicity stunt, but did not participate in calling or lying to the police. Attorney Gregory Kulis said the Osundairos have had trouble making ends meet and lost work since the Smollett attack occurred.
No one should be surprised by this lawsuit," attorney James Tunick said. "[The defendants] know the extent of their false and vicious remarks." Tunick said that there are "numerous false statements" in their 16-page lawsuit, many of which he says were made after the charges against Smollett were dropped. Tunick said his team has "actual evidence" that contradicts statements Geragos and Glandian allegedly made. Tunick did not specify, however, what the evidence was.
Geragos and Glandian slammed the suit, telling Fox News, "At first we thought this comical legal document was a parody. Instead this so-called lawsuit by the brothers is more of their lawyer driven nonsense, and a desperate attempt for them to stay relevant and further profit from an attack they admit they perpetrated. While we know this ridiculous lawsuit will soon be dismissed because it lacks any legal footing, we look forward to exposing the fraud the Osundairo brothers and their attorneys have committed on the public."
In January, Smollett told authorities that two masked men attacked him, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant. The actor, who is black and openly gay, said the masked men beat him, made racist and homophobic comments and yelled, "This is MAGA country" before fleeing the scene. Surveillance video reportedly revealed the Osundairo brothers purchasing the rope allegedly used in the attack.
Smollett was later arrested for allegedly filing a false police report and faced 16 counts of disorderly conduct. The charges against the actor were dropped. Smollett has maintained his innocence and insists the attack was real. The city of Chicago has since sued the actorin an effort to recoup resources spent investigating the alleged hoax.
The Chicago Police Department alleged in March that the Osundairo brothers became cooperating witnesses in the investigation into Smollett, alleging that the singer-actor paid the Osundairos by check for a "phony attack" in order to take "advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career." Smollett has repeatedly and vehemently denied the allegations, saying he paid the brothers for physical training.
When questioned about Smollett's claim that his attackers were white, Glandian previously alleged that the Osundairos may have been wearing white makeup at the time of the attack.
"He did tell police that from what he saw, he thought it was white or pale skin, that's what he initially said," Glandian said on "Today" on March 28, adding, "Obviously, you can disguise that. You can put makeup on." She then pointed to a 2016 YouTube video of Abel Osundairo wearing white makeup on his face to dress up as the Joker for a costume.
Glandian also told "Good Morning America" that the Osundairos lied about their participation in the alleged hoax attack.
Schmidt previously told Fox News of the Osundairo brothers' role in the alleged hoax, "What they did, and I'll say have they tremendous regret over their role and their participation in this, but what they did was accept payment for training that also encompassed doing a favor for this person. It's not an easy narrative to say, 'Oh, OK, let's just take $3,500 for this."
Schmidt insisted at the time that Smollett took advantage of the brothers, adding, "They are remorseful for their involvement. That's without a doubt. I was there to witness their realization process, to see that this was something that was going to effect tremendous people across the board, have an enormous impact on minority populations — I was there to see that realization process, and they are remorseful for that."