An attorney for the two brothers involved in the alleged attack that police say was staged by Empire star Jussie Smollett says the actor took advantage of their perceived friendship.
In an interview on Good Morning America Monday, attorney Gloria Schmidt said her clients “were just taken advantage of by someone they trusted.”
Her clients, Ola and Abel Osundairo, provided testimony that led to police charging Smollett in the January 29 incident. On Friday, a grand jury returned 16 felony charges against the actor.
“This was someone who the brothers thought could help their career,” Schmidt said of Smollett. “Someone they had trusted to consider their best interest.”
Schmidt said the brothers were paid $3500 to train Smollett for an upcoming role but were also coerced into participating in the alleged attack.
“They were paid for the training … but they were also asked to do this favor for him,” she said. “If you’re friends, and I’m saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to pay you for training, I’m also asking you to do me a favor … and the favor was to stage the attack.”
Schmidt said her clients regret their participation in the act and added that she is confident “That they did not do a hate crime.”
“They’re working very hard right now to piece their lives together … They know that this has impacted a lot of minority populations, so they’re working very hard to just move this in a positive direction,” she added.
Although the Osundairo brothers were briefly named suspects in the January 29 incident, they were later released without being charged. Days later, Smollett was indicted by Chicago police for filing a false report.
Smollett maintains his version of events that he was attacked by two masked men who assaulted him, poured bleach on him, placed a noose around his neck and yelled racist and homophobic slurs.
Smollett is facing up to 8 years in prison for the 16 counts.