Jussie Smollett’s lawyers fire back at Osundairo brothers’ defamation suit as judge rules it can go forward

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Attorneys representing Jussie Smollett in his fake hate crime case have filed a malicious prosecution complaint in response to a defamation suit filed by Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — two brothers who testified that they had participated in the elaborate hoax — claiming that one lawyer on the defense team defamed the pair when she suggested they had been wearing “whiteface” while carrying out of the ordeal.

Tina Glandian made comments on NBC’s “Today” show in March 2019, shortly after the Cook County State’s Attorney announced it was dropping charges accusing Smollett of lying to police about the incident two months earlier, and in those remarks, Glandian alleged that the Osundairo brothers, who hail from Nigeria and are Black, might have “put makeup on” to disguise their color.

A judge in Chicago has paved the way for the defamation suit to move forward against Glandian after ruling in favor of the Osundairo brothers’ claim that the counselor’s comments could have been taken as defamatory and alleged that remarks were an apparent attempt by the lawyer to “dispel the inconsistency in Smollett’s story (the attackers had light skin) and bolster her contention that the plaintiffs (who are not light skinned) were Smollett’s attackers.”

Brothers Olabinjo Osundairo, right, and Abimbola Osundairo, appear outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Feb. 24, 2020.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

“Taken in context, Glandian was asserting plaintiffs’ involvement in a racially motivated attack,” U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland wrote in the ruling made public Friday. “Explaining that the attackers were white, read in context, adds the implication that the attack was a hate crime.”

Gloria Rodriguez, an attorney for the brothers, did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on being named in a malicious prosecution counter-complaint filed by Glandian’s law firm, Geragos & Geragos (G&G) but told the Chicago Tribune that her clients “look forward to their day in court and will continue defending themselves against other defamatory remarks.”

Meanwhile, in a complaint filed Thursday and obtained by Fox News Digital on Friday, G&G, along with the firm’s namesake attorney Mark Geragos, remained steadfast in the belief that all the claims filed by the Osundairo brothers and their counsel team, including Rodriguez, Jorge Rodriguez, Gregory Kulis and James D. Tunick, “were promptly dismissed when it was revealed that the lawsuit against them was filed without any basis in law or fact.” 

Additionally, they pressed that in early 2019, the Osundairo brothers “confessed to attacking actor Jussie Smollett but claimed it was a hoax. Charges were filed and dismissed against Mr. Smollett in March 2019.”

Attorney Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, center, representing Ola Osundairo, left, talks to reporters in the Leighton Criminal Courthouse lobby Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Chicago, after a jury found actor Jussie Smollett guilty on five of six charges he staged a racist, anti-gay attack on himself and lied to police about it.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

“In April of 2019, in an effort to capitalize on the Osundairo brothers’ newfound infamy and to inject themselves into the limelight, Defendants filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois against the attorneys and law firm representing Mr. Smollett,” the complaint from the Geragos firm reads. “Immediately after filing the frivolous lawsuit, Defendants brazenly held a press conference to draw national attention to their baseless claims.”

Smollett is not named as a plaintiff in the malicious prosecution filing.

The filed claim in response to the Osundairo brothers’ defamation suit further states that despite strongly denying that they had any involvement in “the attack on Mr. Smollett,” the pair of brothers “at the 47th hour of being in custody (at or near the time when police either had to charge or release them) suddenly confessed to attacking Mr. Smollett but claimed that they did so as part of a hoax orchestrated by Mr. Smollett.”

Jussie Smollett was released from Cook County Jail on March 16.

The complaint adds that given the fact that the Osundairo brothers were considered the State’s “star witnesses” in the high-profile prosecution of Smollett, Rodriguez subsequently used the limelight to further create a cache for herself by holding a press conference “in which she attacked Mr. Smollett’s credibility, improperly opined on his guilt, and attempted to seize the moral high ground, stating, among other things: ‘I think Jussie Smollett should come clear [sic] because the truth will set him free,” and “I think that Jussie’s conscience is probably not letting him sleep right now so I think he should unload that conscience and just come out and tell the American people what actually happened.’” 

The complaint argues that Rodriguez’s remarks about Smollett and his pending case “were a clear violation of the rules of professional conduct” and went on to point to numerous television appearances she made on programs such as “Good Morning America,” “Anderson Cooper,” “CBS News” and “Access,” repeatedly stating that Mr. Smollett abused his power and took advantage of her clients in asking them to participate in a hoax.”

Glandian filed the malicious prosecution lawsuit against the brothers on Thursday, contending the lawsuit was a “lawyer-driven publicity stunt designed to try to keep the Osundairo brothers relevant.”

Tina Glandian, attorney for actor Jussie Smollett, speaks at his sentencing hearing, Thursday, March 10, 2022 at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. A U.S. District Judge in Chicago ruled, Friday, March 18, 2022, that Glandian might have defamed the two Black brothers who testified that they participated in a fake racist and homophobic attack on the actor when she suggested they had been wearing "whiteface". (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool File)

“We are confident that the single remaining allegation reflecting Ms. Glandian’s opinion will be dismissed in due course,” her attorney, Brendan Healey, said in a statement.

The ruling is the latest legal twist in a story that has been chock-full of them. It started with a search for attackers that turned into an investigation of Smollett and felony charges against the actor for allegedly lying to police. Authorities said he hired the brothers to carry out a fake attack.

Last week, three months after a jury found him guilty of felony disorderly conduct, a judge sentenced the actor to 150 days in jail. Smollett was six days into his sentence on Wednesday when an appeals court ordered his release from custody pending an appeal of his conviction and sentence.

In a statement to Fox News Digital in the hours after Smollett was handed his sentence, Rodriguez said: “The Osundairo brothers were not advocating for any specific sentence, they deferred to the wisdom and experience of Dan Webb and his team, including Sam Mendenhall and Sean Weiber, to bring the Smollett case to its final conclusion.”

“The Honorable Judge Linn found the Osundairo brothers not to be criminally connected to Mr. Smollett’s crime in any way, and for anyone continuing to state otherwise simply does not understand the laws or facts in this case,” she added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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