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Brothers Accused of Hate Crime File Defamation Claims

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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On April 23, 2019, in the wake of substantial media coverage surrounding the alleged attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett, the two brothers accused of perpetrating the supposed hate crime filed suit against Smollett’s attorneys. The brothers are claiming that the legal team defamed them by continuing to insist in the media that the brothers committed a hate crime. Smollett was represented by Tina Glandian and Mark Geragos.In the complaint that was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois, brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo claimed that on January 25, 2019, four days before Smollett’s alleged attack, the actor asked the plaintiffs to help him stage a fake hate crime in order to draw media attention to Smollett as a successful, black and openly gay actor. According to the plaintiffs, Smollett planned out the details of the fake attack down to the location of the attack and the use of a noose. On January 29, 2019, the story of the alleged attack on Smollett went viral when Smollett reported to Chicago Police that two men in ski masks pulled a noose around his neck, poured an unknown liquid on his body and kicked him while yelling various racist and homophobic slurs.

The plaintiffs were taken into Chicago Police custody on February 15, 2019 and were released the same day without charges after admitting to police that the attack was staged. Smollett was subsequently indicted with 16 felony counts of false report of offense; however, all charges against the actor were dropped just three weeks later on March 26, 2019. Despite the charges against Smollett and the plaintiffs’ own admission that the crimes were staged, Smollett’s attorneys have continuously insisted that the plaintiffs unequivocally led a criminally homophobic, racist and violent attack against Smollett.

The suit brings causes of action for common law defamation per se and common law false light.

The case is: Osundairo et al. v. Geragos et al., Case No.: 1:19-cv-02727, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

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