The brothers involved in the Jussie Smollett case have issued a statement through their attorney saying they “regret” taking part in what police have described as a hoax.
“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,” attorney Gloria Schmidt said in a statement to CBS Chicago.
Smollett said he was assaulted on the morning of Jan. 29, when two men approached him on a Chicago street and started yelling racial and homophobic slurs.
Ola and Abel Osundairo were taken into custody on Feb. 13 after returning from Nigeria. Police questioned the brothers for two days and released them without charges. CPD then declared Smollett a suspect in the case, and said they wanted to interview the Empire actor again.
Smollett was arrested on Feb. 21 and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. Hours later, he appeared at a bond hearing and was released on $100,000 bail.
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the actor orchestrated the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the hit Fox series.
“Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference.
Prosecutors said they have Uber records, text messages from the Osundairo brothers’ phones, cell phone tower data from Smollett’s phone and a $3,500 personal check the actor allegedly wrote to pay for the attack.
Smollett has repeatedly maintained his innocence and his lawyers vowed to launch an “aggressive defense.”
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on Empire, has been cut from the remaining episodes of the show’s current season.
He is due back in court on March 14.