The two brothers who allegedly helped “Empire” star Jussie Smollett stage a fake homophobic and racist street assault in Chicago say they have “tremendous regret” about it and know the impact it will have on true victims of hate crimes.
USA TODAY obtained a statement from Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo Friday from their attorney, Chicago lawyer Gloria Schmidt.
“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,” the statement read.
The Osundairo brothers were originally considered suspects in the early-morning beating Smollett told police he suffered in a downtown Chicago neighborhood on Jan. 29.
Smollett told police his attackers shouted racist and homophobic slurs and referred to “MAGA,” President Trump’s political slogan, Make America Great Again.
The brothers were arrested on Feb. 15, detained and interrogated for nearly 48 hours, and finally told police that Smollett had paid them to stage the attack. Police released them without charges.
Chicago police had insisted all along that Smollett was a crime victim until suddenly he wasn’t: On Feb. 20, police charged him with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. He pleaded not guilty.
On Feb. 21, at a blistering press conference, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the attack to look like a hate crime in order to “take advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
Now the brothers are apologizing for their alleged role in the episode. Earlier, on Feb. 18, they also issued a statement in response to inaccurate media reports about their views and citizenship.
“We are not racist. We are not homophobic and we are not anti-Trump,” the brothers told CBS in Chicago. “We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens.”
The brothers, who are bodybuilders and also work as trainers, were well acquainted with Smollett because Abel Osundairo, 25, worked on “Empire” as a stand-in for a character that was Smollett’s character’s love interest on the show, according to prosecutors.
The brothers worked out with Smollett and one served as his personal trainer, according to Smollett’s attorneys. Prosecutors said Abel occasionally sold the drugs to Smollett.
Ola Osundairo also is an actor, having appeared on “Chicago P.D.” and in “The Worst Nightmare,” according to his IMDb page.