Jussie Smollett Denies Angrily Complicity In Attack And Adds That He Is Being “Further Victimized”
Jussie Smollett is speaking out against a spate of reports that suggest he orchestrated his own ambush and assault. He’s also hired a top tier legal team in Chicago, comprised of lawyers known for high-profile civil and criminal cases.
Smollett’s legal team issued their statement Saturday night, which was within days of Rob Elgas, a reporter at ABC 7 Chicago, reporting that “multiple sources” said Smollett orchestrated his own assault in the city’s tony Streeterville neighborhood. Also on Saturday, CNN reported a story with their own sources stating belief that Smollett’s account was untrue and he allegedly paid two men money to stage the attack. Now Smollett – through his attorneys – denies those reports and adds that he is being “further victimized.”
“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,” says the statement, submitted to Forbes via Smollett’s team, and written by attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. 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.”
It’s been a tough week for Smollett, from speaking out on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts to dealing with the fall-out of a number of investigative leaks that seem to directly attempt to refute Smollett’s narrative of the January assault. In that GMA interview, Smollett notably told Roberts that he never said that his attackers were wearing “MAGA” hats, and that he didn’t need to add that detail as a “cherry on top of a racist sundae.” Later in the week, two persons of interest – brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo – were arrested, questioned and released in connection with the attack and now police reportedly have new leads to follow. At least one of the brothers is reportedly an Empireextra from an earlier season, and police informed media that Smollett knew the two. At the same time, Chicago’s police superintendent has said that Smollett is still being treated as the victim of a crime wherein two masked men attacked him, poured an unknown chemical substance on his body and placed a rope around his neck while also shouting “MAGA country,” and racist and homophobic obscenities.
The roller coaster of fast news this week also included several outlets reporting that the Empire star had hired Michael Monico, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois’ Northern District and an attorney most recently known for representing Michael Cohen. (Cohen, who is President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, hired Monico to help represent him regarding federal charges.) On Thursday, Monico told a Chicago talk radio program, WGN’s “The Roe Conn Show,” that he was hired by Smollett “at the moment.” But Smollett’s team confirmed, on Saturday night to Forbes, that Monico does not represent the actor at this time.
The court of public opinion is obviously divided on whether or not they believe Smollett’s account of events. Public discussions of the assault swiftly become politically-tinged as the openly-gay actor’s story is dissected by millions of interested parties.
Regarding news that Smollett knew one of the persons of interest, his attorneys state that this is true. One of the men wanted for questioning was “Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement says. “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.”
Regarding the remainder of the investigation, Smollett’s team are waiting on Chicago police for updates.
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”