Records: Police paid for hotel for brothers in Smollett case
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police provided a six-night hotel stay with separate rooms and 24-hour security to two brothers who said they were paid by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett to stage a racist, anti-gay attack on him, according to investigative reports released Wednesday to several media outlets.
The hotel rooms were part of an effort to avoid the media last month as detectives investigated Smollett’s report that he was assaulted in January by a pair of men in downtown Chicago, the reports said.
The heavily redacted reports blacked out the names of Abimbola Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo, but the context makes it clear that the brothers were put up from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21 at the Chicago South Loop Hotel near the city’s McCormick Place convention center. Police paid for the hotel and the security. “Assistance for food and incidentals were also provided,” one report said.
Police met with the men at the hotel, stopped at restaurants to get meals for them and drove the pair and their attorney to court, taking them into the courthouse through a back entrance to avoid the media, according to the reports.
A judge on Wednesday sealed the investigative documents, and police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said he was awaiting a written copy of the order to determine if he could comment, including disclosing how much the stay cost the department.
After learning Tuesday that prosecutors had dropped charges against Smollett, a furious Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the $10,000 bond payment that Smollett agreed to forfeit did not begin to reimburse the city for the costs of the investigation, which began Jan. 29.
That’s when Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed he was attacked and beaten by two masked men who shouted slurs and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Smollett also said the men doused him with a chemical and put a noose around his neck. He told a detective that at least one of the attackers was white, according to Chicago police.
After using surveillance cameras and other methods, police identified the Osundairo brothers as suspects and learned that they had flown to Nigeria the same day as the reported attack. The men were arrested Feb. 13 at O’Hare Airport but within two days were released without charges after detailing the alleged plot orchestrated by Smollett. The deal included a $3,500 payment to help stage the attack, which Smollett hoped would help promote his career, police said.
The brothers were taken to the hotel after their release, when police found out news organizations were at the men’s residence, according to one investigative report.
Cook County First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats told reporters that he still believes Smollett staged the attack but prosecutors dropped the case because they needed to focus on violent crimes. Besides forfeiting his bond payment, Smollett also did community service, Magats said.
Smollett was not required to admit wrongdoing or apologize, and he immediately told reporters that he was innocent. He has said the $3,500 paid to the brothers was for fitness training.
Now Smollett’s attorney is trying to shift attention back to the brothers, saying investigators should look into their role in the alleged attack.
“The two men who attacked him have indicated that they attacked him, so we already know who attacked him,” attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said after all 16 charges against Smollett were dropped.
On Wednesday, another Smollett attorney, Tina Glandian, told “Good Morning America” that the two brothers were lying. She said Smollett was a crime victim who “just wants his life back.”
A spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment.
The brothers testified before a grand jury, and Smollett was charged last month with filing a false police report about the attack. An attorney who has represented the brothers, Gloria Schmidt, said that the pair did not testify as part of any plea deal and that they were not granted any immunity from prosecution.
On Tuesday, Schmidt said in a statement that the two “were fully prepared to testify in any criminal proceeding” in the Smollett case.
In an interview with AP earlier this month, she said the brothers regretted their involvement.
“It started by them having a relationship with Mr. Smollett. Mr. Smollett being in a position of power over them — him being this celebrity person who could pull strings for them and help them in their career,” Schmidt said.
“They were thinking, ‘I’m going to help my friend. He’s asking for this,’” she said.
The brothers could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A phone number associated with their home had a voicemail box that was full.
Smollett’s lawyer said the brothers had backed up the actor’s version of events.
“The Osundairo brothers said more than once that the $3,500 check they received was for exactly what Jussie said. They were his trainers,” Holmes said.
During her interview Wednesday, Glandian acknowledged that Smollett talked and texted with the brothers in the hours before the attack. She said they discussed training and nutrition as Smollett was waiting on a delayed flight to Chicago.
But she said Smollett had no idea who attacked him until the brothers were later identified by police.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx defended her staff’s decision to drop the charges. She told Chicago’s CBS station that she believed the matter was handled properly, calling it “an outcome that we could expect with this type of case.”
Also Wednesday, a conservative Illinois state lawmaker filed paperwork asking the state attorney general to review the circumstances under which the charges were dismissed. A spokeswoman for the attorney general did not reply to a request for comment.
Associated Press Writer Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.
Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.