“As a victim of a hate crime … Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports.”
Jussie Smollett continued to play the victim on Saturday amid reports that his Nigerian friends were cooperating with a police investigation into whether he made up the story that he was attacked by racist supporters of President Donald Trump.
The actor is “angered and devastated” and has been “further victimized” by reports that his Nigerian friends told police that he enlisted them to attack him, his attorneys said in a statement released late Saturday night. They outright denied the claims against their client.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” began Smollett attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson. “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.”
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The lawyers went on to express disbelief at the notion that Smollett could have be so betrayed by Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, with whom he worked on “Empire” and was friendly.
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continued. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.”
According to news reports, the Osundairo brothers agreed to cooperate with Chicago police after they were confronted with evidence that they bought the rope allegedly used in the attack on Smollett at a local hardware store. The police have moved from investigating the attack as a potential hate crime to trying to figure out whether Smollett made up the whole story, reports said.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged Saturday that newly discovered information has “shifted the trajectory” of the probe, ABC reported.
The brothers, who are reportedly the figures captured on publicly circulated security camera footage, were initially considered persons of interest and then potential suspects, police said. On Wednesday, their home was raided and they were brought in for questioning by police. They have since been released and restored to the status of persons of interest.
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Smollett, 36, emotionally shared his account of the incident Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He said that two men jumped him outside his Chicago apartment in the early hours of Jan. 29. They pegged him as a gay and black actor from Fox’s “Empire” TV series, he said, and used racial and homophobic slurs against him – at one point shouting “This is ‘MAGA’ country!” After the attack, he noticed a rope around his neck and bleach stains on his clothes, he said.
In the interview, Smollett claimed to be persecuted not just by his attackers, but by American culture more broadly. He said he was “pissed off” about both experiences and blamed Donald Trump for his plight, even though, as host Robin Roberts pointed out, the president had condemned the attack.
“I come really really hard against 45. I come really really hard against his administration. I don’t hold my tongue. I can only go off of their words,” he said, referring to the “MAGA” slogan and slurs he said his attackers shouted.
The actor also said he thought his story would have been questioned less if the attackers had been members of a minority group.
“I feel like if I had said it was a Muslim, a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would support me a lot more, and I feel like that’s an issue in our country right now,” he told Roberts.
TMZ reported Friday that Smollett repeatedly claimed his assailants were white.
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