Nigerians Jussie Smollett paid to stage attack are “Empire” extras, his gym friends

by Kim Boateng Posted on February 17th, 2019

The two men in surveillance video who Jussie Smollett insisted on national TV were the racist fiends who attacked him, are actually his gym buddies — the pair of muscle-bound Nigerian brothers questioned and released without charges in connection with the increasingly bizarre case, Chicago police told The Post on Saturday.

“The two suspects released yesterday were in fact on the scene and in the surveillance image,” said Chicago police spokeswoman Jessica Rocco, referring to the brawny bros, models/actors Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo.

The workout warriors, who were arrested Wednesday at Chicago O’Hare Airport as they returned from their native country, were initially characterized as “persons of interest,” in the case, but were released Friday — when cops said they have new evidence to investigate.

“Information received from the brothers during the interview process have in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Chicago PD spokeswoman Christine Calace said, without offering more details.

The 36-year-old “Empire” actor, who is gay, declared Thursday on “Good Morning America” that he was certain the two grainy figures seen in footage are the masked thugs he claimed beat him up on Jan. 29 outside a Subway restaurant in Chicago, hurling homophobic and racist slurs at him as they pounded his body.

“This is MAGA country!” the men said as the looped a rope around his neck, the actor claimed. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did,” he declared.

He also said they were likely white.

“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 much more. A lot more,” said Smollett.

The brothers, it turns out, have a “relationship” with Smollett, authorities said, and worked on the smash Fox drama. They also pumped iron with Smollett at the gym, their lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, has said. And the actor is among the brothers’ Instagram followers.

On Saturday, “Empire” cast and crew members jumped to the brothers’ defense, saying there’s no way they could have attacked Smollett, because they’re not homophobic or racist. Smollett would regularly approach them to talk health and fitness, the unnamed staffers told the outlet.

Reports surfaced Thursday that cops were investigating claims Smollett and the attack was staged to keep him from being written off the show — a theory the actor and Fox Television executives have denied.

“At first it was the thing of like, listen, if I tell the truth then that’s it because it’s the truth. Then it became a thing of, like, how can you doubt that? How can you not believe that? It’s the truth,” Smollett said on GMA.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that Michael Monico, Michael Cohen’s high-powered defense attorney, is now representing Smollett.

“Yes, at the moment, I am,” Monico, told WGN’s “The Roe Conn Show” Thursday. He did not say how long, or in what capacity.
Monico, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois’ Northern District, did not return messages seeking comment.

Schmidt could not immediately be reached, but assured that the whole story would emerge.

“There’s so many moving parts to this,” she said. “That will come out in due time. I don’t want to speculate. I think I would be doing a disservice to the truth if I did.”

What is the new evidence?

First, the Chicago Police Department confirmed the brothers were the two men seen on surveillance images at the alleged crime scene.

“Yes, they are confirmed to be the men on scene by surveillance video. The reason why they were there is now central to the investigation and we can’t get into that at this time,” CPD told WLS-TV.

A lawyer representing the brothers said something her clients told investigators shifted the trajectory of the investigation, although she did not go into detail.

Second, a reporter for WFLD-TV — Fox’s local Chicago affiliate — reported Saturday that police are now seriously investigating whether the alleged assault is, in fact, a hoax after it was discovered the Osundairo brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a local Ace Hardware store.

Finally, CPD told multiple reporters that after speaking with the Osundairo brothers Friday night, detectives reached out to Smollett’s legal team explaining they need to speak with Smollett again.

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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