Actor Jussie Smollett talks with Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America." | Youtube screenshot
Actor Jussie Smollett has doubled down on his claim he was attacked by racist white supporters of President Donald Trump, and has now demanded the city of Chicago and others be made to pay him for allegedly concocting and promoting the story Smollett had staged the January attack to advance his career.
On Nov. 19, Smollett, through his lawyer, William J. Quinlan, of the Quinlan Law Firm, filed a counterclaim in Chicago federal court against the city, former police superintendent Eddie Johnson, the Nigerian brothers alleged to have helped Smollett and others. The counterclaim came as the centerpiece of Smollett’s formal answers to the lawsuit brought earlier this year by the city of Chicago, which demands Smollett be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to compensate the city and taxpayers for the costs of the large police investigation into Smollett’s attack claims.
In the counterclaim, Smollett asserts the hoax allegations emerged as a result of a 48-hour “interrogation” conducted by Chicago Police of brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, and was then seized on by Chicago Police to advance the story Smollett had orchestrated the attack to gain publicity and public sympathy after he allegedly became unhappy with the lack of response from television executives and others to a threatening racist and homophobic letter he claims to have received weeks earlier.
The counterclaim asserts Chicago Police chose to ignore evidence that backs Smollett’s version of the story, in which he was allegedly assaulted by two white men in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. According to Smollett’s story, the men physically attacked him, poured bleach on him and hung a noose around his neck, while shouting racist and homophobic slurs and saying, “This is MAGA country,” referring to the presidential campaign slogan of President Donald Trump.
Smollett is African American and gay.
The alleged incident quickly went public, with Smollett recounting the story on television in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Celebrities and Democratic politicians immediately seized on the story, and rushed to express solidarity and sympathy for Smollett, often using the alleged attack to in turn condemn their political opponents.
However, Chicago Police flipped the script shortly after, securing an indictment of Smollett for allegedly fabricating the incident, accusing him of conspiring with the Osundairo brothers, who then helped him stage the attack.
During the first court hearing on the matter, however, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office unexpectedly dropped the charges, infuriating Chicago city officials, including then-Police Superintendent Johnson and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The city soon after responded by filing suit against Smollett, demanding under two city ordinances he pay at least $300,000 to cover the city’s costs in investigating Smollett’s allegedly false police report.
A federal judge in October refused to dismiss the lawsuit, rejecting Smollett’s lawyers’ assertion Chicago Police chose to leverage extensive resources into the investigation, and so taxpayers should be made to pay for the investigation, not Smollett.
In her decision, U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall said the large and swift Smollett investigation was the result of Chicago Police recognizing the massive implications of Smollett’s story.
“… This is hardly the normal course of events,” Kendall wrote. “Most crime victims, for instance, do not have the opportunity to discuss the crime on ‘Good Morning America.’”
After that ruling, Smollett’s lawyers filed their formal answer to the city’s complaint, including the counterclaim.
Specifically, Smollett asserts the Osundairo brothers and their lawyer seized on suggestions from police investigators to invent the alleged hoax story.
“To this day, Mr. Smollett does not know what involvement, if any, the Osundairo Brothers had in the attack on him on January 29, 2019,” the counterclaim said. “It is clear, however, that the Osundairo Brothers faced prosecution by the CPD for the attack and they decided with (their lawyer) to advance the false hoax narrative to avoid criminal charges.”
The counterclaim also challenged other pieces of the city’s cases. For instance, Smollett now claims a text message he sent to the Osundairo brothers about needing their help “on the low,” was not about staging the attack, but rather about their help in obtaining “herbal steroids” in Nigeria to help him lose 20 pounds for an upcoming acting role.
Further, the counterclaim asserts Chicago Police chose to ignore witnesses who allegedly told them they saw two attackers, including a male with “white skin” visible, despite a ski mask, near the site of the alleged attack.
Smollett said the hoax allegations have caused him “to be the subject of mass public ridicule and harm.”
“Aside from the substantial reputational harm the Osundairo Brothers’ false statements have caused him, Mr. Smollett has also suffered and continues to suffer substantial economic losses, including but not limited to lost employment opportunities and mounting legal fees, as well as severe mental anguish and distress,” the counterclaim said. “Mr. Smollett must also defend against the instant case by the City for investigative costs in a case in which he was the victim of a crime.”
The counterclaim asks the court to order the city, Johnson, the Osundairos and other defendants to pay him unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.