The lawyer representing two brothers involved in the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett said the Empire actor used his star power and friendship with the men to take advantage of them.
“My clients were just taken advantage of by someone they trusted,” Gloria Schmidt, who represents brothers Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, said Monday on Good Morning America.
“They worked with Jussie, they’ve known him, they were friends with him. This was someone who the brothers thought could help their career. Obviously Mr. Smollett has connections,” Schmidt told George Stephanopoulos. “This later turned out to be a big betrayal.”
Smollett — who is African-American and gay — filed a police report on Jan. 29, saying he was assaulted by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs.
The brothers told investigators the actor wrote them a personal check for $3,500 to help stage the attack. GMA showed an image of the check on-screen, which included Smollett’s name and signature.
Chicago police have previously said the actor planned the attack and paid the brothers after he became upset that a racist letter sent to Fox studios in Chicago, where Empire is filmed, didn’t get enough attention.
The memo line on the check said it was for personal training. Schmidt didn’t dispute that, but said the money was also intended to help pull off a hoax.
“They were training together and so they were paid for that, but they were also asked to do this favor for him,” she said, adding that the situation is “complicated.”
“If you’re friends, and I’m saying ‘Hey, I’m going to pay you for training, I’m also asking you to do me a favor,'” she said.
Stephanopoulos pressed her to elaborate on the nature of the “favor.”
“The favor was to stage the attack,” she stated. Schmidt also reiterated her previous statement that the brothers “regret” their actions.
“So you’re confident this was a hoax?” Stephanopoulos asked. “I’m confident that they did not do a hate crime,” Schmidt replied.
Last week Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about the attack. Each count carries a possible sentence ranging from probation to three years.
The actor’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 14.