The brothers who Jussie Smollett allegedly paid to stage an attack on him have expressed their “tremendous regret” over the incident.
Abel and Ola Osundairo, who were arrested by the police last month and questioned as suspects before being released and reportedly treated as witnesses, gave a statement through their attorney to entertainment publication TheWrap on Thursday night (February 28).
Their lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, said: “My clients have tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation, and they understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves.”
Jussie Smollett suspended from Empire after arrest
Smollett was suspended from Fox show Empire following his arrest on February 21.
In a statement reported by Entertainment Weekly on February 22, Empire‘s executive producers said that “to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”
They called the charges against Smollett “very disturbing.”
Smollett faces up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines if found guilty of arranging what Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson called a “hoax” in a press briefing on February 21.
“Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
— Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson
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Johnson said: “This announcement today recognises that Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
The police chief, who is African-American himself, called Smollett’s behaviour “shameful,” adding: “I’m left hanging my head and asking, why?”
He said the Empire actor first attempted to drum up attention from the public by sending a fake racist letter to his place of work.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that the FBI was investigating hate mail sent to Smollett in the days leading up to his alleged attack.
Johnson said that “when that didn’t work, he paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process.”
Jussie Smollett maintains innocence after arrest
In a statement released on February 21 after his arrest, Smollett said he felt “betrayed” by authorities.
“Mr Smollet [sic] is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing,” read a statement sent on behalf of Smollett to Deadline.
“Today we witnessed an organised law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the statement added.
“The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election.”