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Brothers in Jussie Smollett case feel "betrayed," lawyer says

Brothers "regret" involvement with Smollett

Two brothers who police say were paid by actor Jussie Smollett to stage an attack on him feel "betrayed" and "tremendously regretful," their lawyer said Monday on CBSN. Gloria Schmidt, the attorney representing brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, told CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers and Anne-Marie Green the brothers are cooperating with the investigation conducted by Chicago police into whether Smollett staged a hate-crime attack on himself in January. 

"They did not know their loyalty to him would be betrayed," Schmidt said, speaking of the brothers' relationship with Smollett. "They find themselves in a situation where they are tremendously regretful."

Schmidt confirmed the brothers have not sought any plea deal and have cooperated with the grand jury examining the case. She also confirmed that they are not facing any charges. Smollett was indicted last week on 16 felony counts; he maintains his innocence.

"This entire thing started because they put their trust in the wrong person," Schmidt said in the interview. "You have someone here who is a celebrity type, someone who is in a position of trust, someone who works with these people, someone who is able to help their careers if he so wants to, and then he betrays them."  

Smollett claimed that on January 29 he was attacked by two masked men in Chicago who yelled racial and homophobic slurs and tied a looped rope, shaped like a noose, around his neck. He claims he heard them shout, "this is MAGA country," an apparent reference to President Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan, before the assailants poured a chemical substance on him and ran away.  

The Osundairo brothers were initially regarded by police as "persons of interest" in the investigation. They left for Nigeria on the same day as the attack, though they they were detained by police at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport upon their return on February 13. 

After conducting an investigation, Chicago police concluded Smollett staged the attack and paid the two brothers to participate, noting that they discovered a $3,500 check Smollett used to pay the Osundairo brothers. 

Smollett is now facing 16 charges including disorderly conduct and making a false report of an attack to police. 

Smollett, 36, gained fame in recent years for his role as Jamal Lyon on FOX's hit television show "Empire." Executive producers for "Empire" announced last month they are writing Smollett's character out of the show's final two seasons, stating they want "to avoid further disruption on set."

In February, two weeks after the alleged attack, Schmidt said the brothers were "baffled about why they are people of interest," adding, "It's an awful thing that happened to Jussie, but it's not my guys."

During her interview with CBSN, Schmidt confirmed that prior to the incident, the Osundairo brothers had a friendship with Smollett and that they trained at the gym with him. But, when asked directly, she would not confirm that Smollett asked her clients to stage the attack or if they agreed to do it. Instead Schmidt praised her clients' cooperation with Chicago police. 

"At the end of the day it was thanks to that cooperation the trajectory of their investigation switched," she said. "Remember, my clients were persons of interest at the start, then they became suspects, they were arrested, and then they went home. And obviously that shift is because of that evidence that came to light and it was because this is something that was at Mr. Smollett's direction." 

During her interview, Schmidt also cleared up one point that has been incorrectly stated by some media outlets: that the brothers are Nigerian.

"They are Americans," she said. "They were born and raised in Chicago. They were born here and raised here." 

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