CHICAGO (AP) — Two brothers who say they helped Jussie Smollett stage a racist and homophobic attack against himself sued the “Empire” actor’s attorneys on Tuesday, accusing them of defamation by continuing to insist publicly that the brothers carried out a real, bigoted attack on Smollett despite knowing that was untrue.
Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo said in a joint statement issued after their lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago that Smollett’s legal team has spread false accusations that have hurt their reputations and undermined their career prospects.
“We have sat back and watched lie after lie being fabricated about us in the media only so one big lie can continue to have life,” they said. “These lies are destroying our character and reputation in our personal and professional lives.”
In their lawsuit, the Osundairos contend that even after prosecutors dropped the charges against Smollett while simultaneously saying they could prove the attack was a hoax, Smollett’s attorneys kept saying in interviews that the Chicago-born brothers “led a criminally homophobic, racist and violent attack against Mr. Smollett.”
“Mr. Smollett’s attorneys, faced with an outraged public, did not retreat after their success (in getting charges dropped). Instead, they doubled down,” states the lawsuit, which names celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, fellow lawyer Tina Glandian and Geragos’ Los Angeles-based law firm as defendants.
In a joint statement, Geragos and Glandian called the lawsuit “ridiculous” and “a desperate attempt” by the brothers “to stay relevant and further profit from an attack they admit they perpetrated.”
“We look forward to exposing the fraud the Osundairo brothers and their attorneys have committed on the public,” they added.
The odds may be against the brothers prevailing in court.
Legal experts say that, in the U.S. adversarial system, attorneys are accorded broad protections from lawsuits based on things they say while defending their clients — even if what they say is mean-spirited or false.
“If my client informs me he didn’t do it and I say that publicly … that’s part of our job as lawyers,” said Jeffrey Granich, a Chicago attorney not connected to the Smollett case. At the same time, Granich said he understood the brothers’ frustration and desire to show they are telling the truth.
Smollett, who is black and gay, has stood by his account that he was attacked in downtown Chicago early on Jan. 29 by two masked men who beat him, shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, and looped a rope around his neck. He said his attackers also shouted slogans supporting President Donald Trump.
At a Tuesday news conference, the brothers’ lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, said the Osundairos regret their involvement with Smollett and decided to tell the truth when confronted by investigators in mid-February.
“We’re going to make sure that the lies and malice attacking our city, our police department and my two clients are met with truth and healing,” she told reporters. The brothers did not attend the news conference.
Prosecutors have said that Smollett’s friendship with Abimbola Osundairo dated back several years and that Osundairo had served as a stand-in for a character named “Kai” on “Empire.” Ola Osundairo also appeared as an extra on the show, prosecutors said.
In their lawsuit, the Osundairos say the defamation by Smollett’s lawyers has caused the brothers “significant emotional distress” and made them feel unsafe and alienated from the local community. It doesn’t specify an amount of money they are seeking, but says it would be more than $75,000 in compensatory and damages, and other costs.
The Osundairo brothers, who are of Nigerian descent, testified before a grand jury days before Smollett was charged, saying Smollett paid them $3,500 to help stage the attack. They contend in their suit that Smollett took advantage of the their aspirations to have TV and movie careers.
“Mr. Smollett used his clout as a wealthy actor to influence Plaintiffs, who were in a subordinate relationship to him and were aspiring to ‘make it’ in Hollywood,” the lawsuit contends.
The lawsuit also states that Glandian “inferred” during an interview on the podcast Reasonable Doubt this month that Abimbola Osundairo “engaged, at least briefly, in homosexual acts” with Smollett. The filing says that’s false, that Osundairo is heterosexual and to say otherwise could put him and his family in danger in Nigeria.
“Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria, which can result in 14 years of imprisonment,” the lawsuit asserts. “If the accused is married, the punishment is death by stoning.”
In the weeks after the alleged attack, police arrested the Osundairo brothers on suspicion of assaulting Smollett but released them without charges. A police spokesman said the two were no longer considered suspects and that investigators had new evidence after questioning them.
About a week after police questioned the brothers, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct and accused of making a false police report about the attack. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office abruptly dropped the charges in March, angering the police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said Smollett had dragged Chicago’s name “through the mud” and that the decision to drop the charges was “a whitewash of justice.”
The city has since sued Smollett, seeking repayment for the costs of investigating the case.
Parents of Caliyah McNabb Found Guilty, Sentenced In 14-Day-Old Daughter’s Murder
The parents of a 14-day-old Georgia baby were found guilty on Tuesday in connection with the little girl’s death. Caliyah McNabb suffered horrific injuries after her father beat her in the head and hid her tiny body in the woods, around 900 feet from her home.
“She was a little angel,” District Attorney Layla Zon said during her closing arguments inside a Newton County courtroom Tuesday afternoon. “She was a gift to Cortney Bell and Christopher McNabb.”
Christopher McNabb, the baby’s father, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on charges of malice murder, aggravated assault, and other related charges. Cortney Bell, the baby’s mother, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with the possibility of parole in 15 years, on charges of second-degree murder, child deprivation, and child cruelty.
McNabb grew angry after the guilty verdict, which only took the jury around an hour to decide. Judge John Ott ordered him out of the courtroom. When he returned for sentencing, McNabb claimed he was innocent and planned to appeal.
“The whole thing was a set-up,” McNabb hissed, clearly upset with the verdict. “I was beat as a child and I don’t agree with this at all. I don’t agree with this at all. I would never do this.”
Ott asked McNabb what type of sentence he would give the person responsible for Caliyah’s death. McNabb replied that the guilty party should be thrown “under the jail.” With that, Ott sentenced McNabb to life without parole.
Bell shed tears during sentencing as she also claimed innocence. Ott told Bell that she allowed a “rattlesnake into her home” by putting McNabb before her children and allowing violence and drugs into her children’s lives.
“You chose meth and McNabb over a baby,” Ott said. “Like most criminals, you have a version of what a good mama is that is so far from the norm.”
Baby Caliyah’s Short Life
As CrimeOnline previously reported, in October 2017, the Newton County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Caliyah died from blunt force trauma to the head. The injuries were gruesome. The infant was beaten in so badly that her baby teeth, which had not yet developed, stuck out through her gums.
The baby also suffered a blow so severe to her head that her skull was “seriously disfigured and damaged beyond repair.” McNabb caused the injuries, then in a panic, wrapped the baby in a blanket and one of his t-shirts, and put her into a Nike drawstring bag. He then took Caliyah into the woods behind his trailer home in Covington and buried her in a depressed area under a log.
It’s unclear exactly what caused the horrific beating, but according to testimony by Bell’s cousin, Gerald Weatherford, both Bell and McNabb smoked meth with him on October 7, 2017, the night before Caliyah disappeared.
“Cortney Bell was too busy smoking methamphetamine to protect her child,” Assistant District Attorney Alex Stone said.
During testimony last week, Bell’s cousin, Megan Sorrells, said Bell was being abused at home during the time Caliyah vanished. She also testified that McNabb and Bell were constantly fighting. Sorrells said Bell never told her about the abuse, but as a domestic abuse victim herself, she could already tell.
“She always had bruises on her,” Sorrells said of Bell. “I didn’t really have to ask many questions. I could tell.”
Court testimony also indicated that little Caliyah wasn’t around her parents much in the mere 14 days she was alive. After spending four days in the hospital after birth, McNabb and Bell passed the baby off to family members multiple times. Caliyah stayed several days with her grandfather, Tim Bell.
Tim testified that he returned the child home with milk and clean diapers in early October, and told his daughter, Bell, to clean up her filthy trailer home. The following day, Caliyah was dead.
Although Bell wasn’t accused of physically harming the baby, by allowing Caliyah to live in a dangerous environment while doing nothing to protect her, makes her culpable of murder. Ott explained to Bell that her second-degree murder charge meant that irrespective of malice, while she was in the commission of neglecting her baby, she helped caused her death.
Zon added that Caliyah’s best days were the days she stayed in the hospital after birth, and that the baby was “doomed” as soon as she was taken home.
“That child was doomed the moment they left that hospital. They took pure innocence and brought that child into a life of hell.”
(Reporting by CrimeOnline)
Actress Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty In College Admissions Scheme
BOSTON (AP) — “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman has pleaded guilty to participating in the college admissions cheating scheme.
The 56-year-old actress entered the plea Monday to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Huffman stood with her hands clasped in front of her and responded, “Yes, your honor,” when asked whether she understood the charges. Her brother watched from the front row. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, didn’t attend.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 13. Prosecutors said they would recommend four months in prison.
She was arrested in March along with dozens of other prominent parents, athletic coaches and others implicated in the scandal. She was charged with paying $15,000 to have a proctor boost her older daughter’s SAT score.
She has apologized and says she will accept the consequences.
‘Anna Delvey,’ Fake Heiress Who Swindled N.Y.’s Elite, Is Sentenced to 4 to 12 Years in Prison
Anna Sorokin, who pretended to be a German heiress, bilked Manhattan hotels, banks and a private jet operator.
Anna Sorokin, the fake German heiress who swindled her way into Manhattan’s elite party circles, was sentenced on Thursday to four to 12 years in prison for bilking hotels, banks and a private jet operator out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The sentencing capped a case of a young grifter who spun her tale with brazen flair. Ms. Sorokin wore designer clothes, lived in boutique hotels, dined in expensive restaurants and lured investors for a $40 million private club — all without a penny to her name.
She has been held on Rikers Island since October 2017. Ms. Sorokin, 28, was convicted last month of most of the charges against her.
Her lawyer, Todd Spodek, said during that trial that Ms. Sorokin was simply an enterprising business-minded woman eager to make it in the big city.
But jurors agreed with prosecutors that her gilt-edged life was an elaborate ruse financed by lies.
In addition to the prison sentence, Ms. Sorokin was fined $24,000 and ordered to pay restitution of about $199,000.
“I apologize for the mistakes I made,” she said at the sentencing.
Ms. Sorokin stiffed hotels, persuaded a bank employee to give her a $100,000 line of credit, swayed a private jet company to let her fly on credit, and tried to secure a $25 million loan from a hedge fund. In all, she stole about $213,000 worth of money and services.
Still, the jury found her not guilty of the most serious offense — faking records in an attempt to obtain a $22 million loan. She was also acquitted of stealing from a friend who said Ms. Sorokin duped her into covering the cost of a $60,000 vacation to Morocco.
To many friends, there was every reason to believe that Ms. Sorokin was a wealthy German heiress named Anna Delvey with so much money that she frequently doled out $100 tips and flew on a private jet to Berkshire Hathaway’s annual investment conference.
But Kaegan Mays-Williams, a prosecutor, said during the trial that Ms. Sorokin’s only goal was to “put herself in the best position to take money” from the wealthy so that she could “live the fantasy of an extravagant lifestyle.”
Mr. Spodek said people believed what they wanted about Ms. Sorokin. She was enabled, he said, by a system “seduced by glamour and glitz.” She intended to pay back her creditors, he said.
“Through her sheer ingenuity, she created the life that she wanted for herself,” he said. “Anna was not content with being a spectator, but wanted to be a participant.”
(Reporting by New York Times)
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