Jussie Smollett’s lawyers Tina Glandian and Mark Geragos were hit with a defamation lawsuit April 23. The suit has been brought by the Osundairo brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola, in the Northern District of Illinois in federal court. If the names sound familiar, these are the two brothers Jussie hired to engage in a hoax attack on him. Smollett shocked the world when he walked out of a Chicago city court after arranging, with the help of a lying state’s attorney, for a $10,000 payment to avoid 16 felony criminal charges. This suit claims Smollett’s lawyers are guilty of defamation for falsely proclaiming to various media that the brothers committed a hate crime against Smollett, perjured themselves, and conducted illegal drug sales, among other offenses.
Often defamation suits are brought not in a genuine attempt to litigate a dispute but instead for inappropriate reasons, like generating headlines or trying to control a story. Those complaints are usually written in a way that makes it clear they are not serious instruments of litigation. This suit does not fall into that bucket. It contains direct and specific instances of defamation for which the brothers wish to recover damages. It cites that on a series of broadcasts on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and the Reasonable Doubts podcast (co-hosted by Geragos), both Geragos and Glandian lied about the Osundairo brothers and falsely accused them of numerous and serious crimes.
Geragos and Glandian are accused in the complaint of false accusations of perjury, battery, hate crimes, with negligence and actual malice. Attorneys are immune from defamation for the content of their pleadings — literally the words written down in court filings — and from arguments in court. They are not similarly immune for statements made to the media. If Geragos and Glandian knew the Osundairos didn’t commit a hate crime, and instead tried to help a hate-filled progressive activist and lied about it, they are guilty of defamation.
Jussie claimed he was attacked on Jan. 29. Police soon understood the criminal act that took place was not one where Smollett was the victim-survivor, but instead a perpetrator. It’s hard to blame him for doing such a poor job – he’s used to well-chosen words being written for him on set and the right details placed there by professionals. In this case, his choice to pay the brothers for the attack with a personal check as well as having them purchase the ski masks, red hat, and noose rope at a local hardware store didn’t help. After being held in custody, the Osundairo brothers agreed to come clean and tell the truth about the hoax, including giving grand jury testimony in the case.
Police then had corroborating accomplice testimony to accompany the mountain of physical and circumstantial evidence that there was no attack but a hoax instead. Jussie was charged with 16 felonies related to the hoax – charged by Illinois but perpetrated on the whole country. Smollett is black and gay, and for him those are not details but identities, those and being a political progressive are as much a part of him as anything, and he was building virtue behind those identities with the attacks. He is also friends with the Obamas and presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). Why is that important? The fix was in.
Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff had been working one on one with State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on the case to get the FBI to take it over. By then Smollett had seen that his hoax wasn’t fooling the Chicago PD. He hoped the FBI would be less inquisitive. While Foxx was not able to get local authorities to drop the matter completely, Foxx gave Smollett a bigger gift than that. The state’s attorney, who lied about recusing herself in the case, pressured her office to go light on Smollett, as we learned in texts uncovered by Freedom of Information Act requests. He was able to walk away from any charges by forfeiting his surety bond of $10,000.
While this new case will surely not make life any easier for Jussie, it is not his biggest problem. That is the federal criminal investigation into the letter that arrived at the TV studio of Smollett’s shows on Jan. 22. It had racist, anti-gay death threats and white powder inside. Forensic analysis revealed the powder to be Tylenol, and it is being investigated by federal authorities. Is it possible Jussie was the real victim of a hate crime threat with fake anthrax and then concocted the rest out of whole cloth?
The Osundairos haven’t asked for a specific dollar amount and have demanded a jury trial.
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