Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier detailed the prior relationship between “Empire” star Jussie Smollett and Abel Osundairo, one of his attackers who helped stage the event and said that Osundario was a source of “designer drugs” for Smollett.
“Smollett and [Abel] Osundairo initiated their friendship in the fall of 2017,” Lanier said Thursday during a press conference at the Cook County courthouse. “During the course of this friendship, defendant Smollet and Abel socialized together, exercised together as well as worked on the Fox TV series ‘Empire.'”
Lanier continued: “Additionally, text messages between [them] revealed that Abel was a source of designer drugs for defendant Smollett. Specifically, since the spring of 2018, and on several occasions, defendant Smollett requested Abel to provide him with [MDMA].”
Smollett surrendered to police at 5 a.m. CT Thursday and was arrested on charges of filing a false police report. The charges stem from a report Smollett filed on Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” After releasing two former suspects over the weekend, police said they wanted to interview Smollett again — and days later declared him a suspect.
During a press conference Thursday morning, Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Smollett staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” Johnson also said Smollett sent the letter threatening himself to Fox, the “Empire” studio. When Johnson first made those statements, he did not mention their source or his proof.
Minutes later, during the media conference’s Q&A portion, the police superintendent responded “yes” to a reporter who asked if that information came from the Osundairo brothers.
At her press conference, Lanier detailed the timeline of events, including when and how Smollett convinced Abel, and later his brother, Ola, to stage an attack on him.
On Jan. 25, Smollett asked Abel when he and his brother, Ola, would be leaving for a pre-planned trip Nigeria, which was scheduled for Jan. 29. After Abel confirmed the date and time of his trip, Smollett texted Abel stating “might need your help on the low you around to meet up to talk face to face?” according to Lanier.
They then met at “Empire’s” Chicago-based studio that afternoon, where Smollett drove Abel back to Abel’s Lakeview-area apartment. “During the ride, Smollett indicated to Abel his displeasure of the ‘Empire’ studio’s handling of the racist and homophobic letter he received three days prior,” Lanier said. “Smollett then stated that he wanted to stage an attack, where it would appear that Abel battered him. Defendant Smollett also suggested that Abel’s older brother, Ola, assist him with the attack.”
Smollett and Ola had previously met on many occasions, and Ola was an extra on “Empire,” according to Lanier.
“Smollett stated that he wanted them to appear to attack him on the evening of Jan. 28, 2019, near his apartment building,” she continued.
“Smollett also stated he wanted the brothers to catch his attention by calling him an ‘Empire’ f–, ‘Empire’ n—–.” Lanier added that “Smollett further detailed that he wanted Abel to attack him, but not hurt him too badly, and to give him a chance to appear to fight back. Defendant Smollett also included he wanted Ola to place a rope around his neck, pour gasoline on him and yell ‘this is MAGA country.'”
She said that Smollett then gave the brothers the $100 bill to purchase the rope, gasoline, ski mask, gloves and red hats that “resembled” “MAGA” hats. He also provided them with a $3,500 personal check made payable to Abel which was backdated to Jan. 23, 2019. The plan was later changed to include bleach instead of gasoline, Ranier added.
Ranier said that on Jan. 27, Smollett took the brothers to where he wanted the attack staged — including pointing out a surveillance camera near the area, which he believed would capture the incident. The attack was supposed to be on Jan. 28 at 10 p.m., instead of 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, when the attack ended up taking place. Ranier said that in between Jan. 27th and 28th, Smollett flew to New York, and his return flight to Chicago on Jan. 28 was delayed by four hours.
Ranier said the staged attack ended up lasting 45 seconds, “and it was just outside of the view of the desired nearby camera that Smollett pointed out to the brothers.”
The Osundairo brothers then left the country on Jan. 29, less than 18 hours after the attack, and returned on Feb. 13. Upon their return, Lanier said, the Chicago PD had by that time ID’ed the brothers and U.S. Customs officials detained them at Chicago’s O’Hare airport upon their arrival.
“Following their arrest and through consultation with their attorneys, the brothers agreed to cooperate in the investigation,” Lanier continued. “As more evidence, such as text messages, phone records, social media records, bank records, surveillance video and the receipt from the purchase of the rope, was obtained by investigators, this investigation shifted from a hate crime to disorderly conduct.”
An attorney for the Osundairo brothers did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on Lanier’s remarks. Representatives for Smollett declined to comment at this time. Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind “Empire,” declined to comment beyond its earlier statement: “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”