For nearly 2 months, news organizations reported that a $3,500 check made out to two Chicago brothers by Jussie Smollett was payment for a hoax hate crime attack. But now the brothers confirm the check was in fact for a training program.
According to TMZ, the $3,500 check made out to Abel Osundairo was for training to prepare the former Empire actor for an upcoming music video shoot. Abel, 25, and his brother Ola Osundairo, 27, are bodybuilders
Abel and Ola’s attorney, Gloria Schmidt, told TMZ the $3,500 check was compensation for a training and nutrition program designed to help Smollett bulk up for a music video.
Schmidt denied a reporter’s suggestion that the brothers could be in legal jeopardy if they lied to police about the check.
“Absolutely not,” Schmidt said. “I don’t know what the prosecutors have said or not said, but I know in terms of their legal analysis, they’re not in any peril.”
She said Smollett “took advantage” of the Osundairo brothers. “What this case really is about is a person in a position of trust who really betrayed my clients and took advantage of them.”
Smollett, who is biracial and openly homosexual, told police two Trump supporters attacked him and yelled racist and homophobic slurs while pouring bleach on him and tying a rope around his neck outside his condo on Jan. 29.
Smollett, 36, was arrested on Feb. 20 and charged with one felony count of lying to the police. He also faces federal charges of mailing a threatening letter to himself.
Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson accused the actor of paying the brothers $3,500 to help him stage the attack. They told police Smollett promised to pay them an additional $500 when they returned from a trip to Africa. They departed the U.S. for Nigeria the same day as the alleged attack.
But the new revelations contradicts what Supt. Johnson told the media in a press conference days before Smollett’s arrest.
“Smollet paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” Johnson said during the news conference.
A Chicago grand jury returned a 16 felony count indictment against Smollett based on the information given to them by the Chicago PD. The actor faces a maximum of 48 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
In related news, some of the Empire crew members have reportedly turned against Smollett.
The cast and crew are said to be divided over the allegations that Smollett concocted a hate crime to benefit himself financially.
According to Page Six, some of the hair and makeup department crew members are reportedly “disgusted” by the allegations and refused to sign a card for the actor.
Smollett is due back in court on March 14.