Chicago, IL – Chicago police confirmed that Jussie Smollett had become a suspect in his own attack on Wednesday afternoon, just hours after it was announced that he had hired the criminal defense attorney who represented Michael Jackson and Colin Kaepernick.
Earlier in the day, surveillance video was released that showed the Osundairo brothers purchasing a red hat and black ski masks, allegedly at the direction of Smollett (video below).
Ola and Abel Osundairo walked into the grand jury room at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse shortly before 4 p.m. on Wednesday, according to tweets from the WBBM at the courthouse.
They were expected to tell the grand jury that Smollett staged the attack and was involved in sending himself a threatening letter.
The Osundairo brothers, who told police Smollett paid them $3,500 for the faux attack, almost went before the Cook County grand jury on Tuesday but a last-minute phone call from defense attorneys for Smollett put the brakes on things.
Prosecutors postponed the testimony even as up to a dozen warrants were authorized by law enforcement agencies in the case of Smollett’s alleged attack, WBBM reported.
While the Osundairo brothers were still in the grand jury room, the Chicago Police Department posted a tweet that confirmed the actor had become a suspect.
“Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by#ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury,” Chicago Police Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi posted.
Shortly before the brothers’ grand jury appearance, WBBM released surveillance video of the men purchasing ski masks and a red baseball cap matching the description of what Smollett’s attackers wore.
The men told police that Smollett told them what to buy and gave them the money to get the rope and other props needed for the staged attack.
The “Empire” star also added Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Geragos to his already impressive cadre of lawyers on Wednesday.
Geragos has represented beleaguered celebrities including Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Chris Brown, P. Diddy, and most recently, Colin Kaepernick, WBBM reported.
Smollett had already hired criminal defense attorney Michael Monico, a former federal prosecutor who also recently represented Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, according to the New York Post.
His defense team is headed up by Chicago-based attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, WBBM reported.
Smollett told investigators he was walking home from a Subway restaurant in his Streeterville neighborhood in the early hours of Jan. 29 when he was jumped by two masked men, the Associated Press reported.
He said the men beat him, and hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Smollett, 36, told police that the men threw an unknown substance on him and put a noose around his neck before they ran off, according to the Associated Press.
The actor told police that he returned to his own apartment and that his manager called police for him about 40 minutes later, according to Guglielmi.
Smollett went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment of the lacerations on his face and neck at the suggestion of police officers.
Police initially investigated the attack as a possible hate crime, Guglielmi said.
Smollett is a well-known and vocal LGBTQ activist in addition to his entertainment career, according to the Associated Press.
However, the narrative began to turn after Chicago police reviewed hundreds of hours of closed-circuit camera footage from city cameras and private security cameras in the heavily-trafficked area searching for video of the incident, and found no evidence of the attack, Billboard reported.
Speculation about the report being false continued to grow after Smollett refused to allow the Chicago police access to his phone to confirm his story that he was attacked while talking to his manager.
His manager told police that he heard Smollett’s attackers say “This is MAGA country” while they were assaulting the actor, NBC News reported.
Thirteen days after the assault, partial, redacted phone records were provided to investigators but police said that what was provided wasn’t enough for their criminal investigation.
On Feb. 13, Smollett went on Good Morning America and told the world he was a victim, and said nobody would be doubting his story if he had claimed his attackers were minorities.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more, and that says a lot about the place we are in our country right now,” Smollett said.
The very next morning, Chicago police announced they had identified two persons of interest “through meticulous investigation.”
On Feb. 15, police arrested two Nigerian brothers in Chicago’s O’Hare airport on suspicion that they may have been involved in the crime.
Ola and Abel Osundairo had both been extras on “Empire,” and were friends of Smollett, WBBM reported.
They searched the men’s apartment and found rope matching what was used to create the noose in the attack on Smollett, as well as magazines with missing pages that may have been used to create the threatening letter.
The Osundairo brothers told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 for the staged attack, and that the three of them actually rehearsed it ahead of time, WBBM reported.
They were supposed to have been paid another $500 when they returned from Nigeria. They left Chicago on a trip to Nigeria the day after the attack.
“We are not racist. We are not homophobic and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens,” the Osundairo brothers said in a joint statement to WBBM on Monday.
Smollett had previously told police he wanted to press charges against his attackers when they were found; however, he changed his tune and refused to sign complaints against the Osundairo brothers, claiming that he felt badly for them.
TMZ reported that detectives thought it was strange that Smollett was able to point out cameras near the area where he was attacked.
And the only people of interest captured on any of the cameras along the actor’s route home the night of the attack turned out to be the Osundairo brothers.
Investigators tracked down the brothers by their movements to and from nearby Smollett’s apartment building on the night of the alleged attack, TMZ reported.
Police sources said the men left the scene in a taxi or rideshare car, and then changed cars on the way home.
“It was almost like a bad spy movie,” a police source told TMZ.
Chicago police have said they needed to interview Smollett again, but so far, the actor hasn’t agreed to a sit down.
You can see the brothers shopping for the “attack” in the video below: