The Nigerian brothers, Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, sent out the statement to media via their lawyer, Gloria Schmidt.
“My clients have tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation, and they understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves,” it read.
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Prosecutors say Smollett, 36, gave detailed instructions to Olabinjo and Osundairo, to stage attack against him in downtown Chicago. Prosecutors allege Smollett gave the brothers specific slurs to yell, telling them to shout “MAGA country,” and asking them to drape a rope around his neck.
Assistant state attorney Risa Lanier said at a news conference last week that Smollett even pointed out to the brothers a specific surveillance camera that he thought would capture footage of the Jan. 29 attack. Police say the camera was pointed another way during the staged attack.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel says hate crimes will never be tolerated in Chicago and charges accusing Smollett “will never trump Chicago’s collective spirit.”
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Smollett was arrested on Feb. 21 for allegedly filing a false police report that claimed he was the victim of a hate crime.
He was released from custody after posting bond, which a judge set at US$100,000. He has not spoken to reporters since he left the Cook County jail.
His legal team, however, continues to defend the actor, saying he’s a “young man of impeccable character.”
“The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a mayoral election,” his lawyers said. “Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
During a bond hearing earlier that day, Smollett said little other than giving his name at the beginning.
Olabinjo and Osundairo were initially held for almost 48 hours, and they provided testimony to authorities for nearly two-and-a-half hours.
“You don’t need immunity when you have the truth,” said Schmidt, revealing why the brothers weren’t seeking a plea deal or immunity.
— With files from The Associated Press and Katie Scott