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‘He came up with this plan’: Brothers’ confession video shows how Jussie Smollett’s story unraveled

<i>Chicago Police Department</i><br/>'He c.ame up with this plan': Brothers' confession video shows how Jussie Smollett's story unraveled
Chicago Police Department
'He c.ame up with this plan': Brothers' confession video shows how Jussie Smollett's story unraveled

By Eric Levenson, CNN

The brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo were kept in Chicago Police detention for nearly two days after they were accused of attacking the “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in a homophobic and racist hate crime.

In the 47th hour of that detention, in a small fluorescently lit room painted a bland white, the brothers began to confess: It was all a hoax.

“He came up with this plan of how we’re gonna, like, pretend to attack him, um, by his house,” Abimbola Osundairo told police.

Newly obtained video from the night of February 15, 2019, shows the Osundairo brothers telling police for the first time that Smollett directed them to carry out a fake hate crime attack weeks earlier. The video even shows the brothers acting out parts of the attack with police detectives, who gamely play along with the reenactment.

The brothers have maintained that story ever since, including under oath in Smollett’s criminal trial late last year, in which a Cook County jury convicted Smollett on five counts of felony disorderly conduct.

Yet the court case was not broadcast on video for the public, so the 2019 confession video represents the first time that the broader public is able to see and hear the brothers’ version of events.

CNN+ obtained the video for its new documentary, “Chicago vs. Jussie Smollett,” now available exclusively on CNN+.

The hour-long documentary traces the winding history of the case and explores the broader criminal justice system in Chicago.

Smollett, who is Black and gay, told police in January 2019 he was attacked outside his Chicago home by two mysterious figures in the middle of the night. The two men used racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck, he told authorities.

As the film documents, the Osundairo brothers’ confession ultimately led to charges against Smollett for lying about the attack; the dismissal of those charges by a social justice-minded prosecutor; the appointment of a special prosecutor and a second indictment; and Smollett’s trial, conviction and sentence.

Smollett was sentenced in March to five months in jail, 30 months of probation, a fine of $25,000 and restitution of over $120,000 to the city of Chicago. He has been released from jail pending an appeal of his conviction.

To tell the story, the documentary features interviews with former Chicago Police superintendent Eddie Johnson, special prosecutor Dan Webb, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, two of Smollett’s brothers and members of his legal team. Smollett did not make himself available for an interview.

What the confession video shows

In the 2019 confession video, the Osundairo brothers, who worked with Smollett on the set of “Empire,” explain that Smollett told them to carry out the hoax and planned it ahead of time. Abimbola Osundairo even shows the detective how he fake punched Smollett and repeats his lines from that night.

“Am I walking away from you or walking toward you?” the detective asks.

“You’re walking away from me,” Abimbola Osundairo says.

“Alright, so we’re gonna start there. I’m walking away, and then?” the detective says.

“I say, ‘Yo, aren’t you the f****t n***** off Empire?’ ” Abimbola Osundairo responds.

At another point, a detective lies on the ground, and Abimbola Osundairo reenacts how he forcefully rubbed his knuckles into Smollett’s face in an attempt to bruise him.

The brothers expressed differing views on Smollett’s motivation for the incident, the video shows. Abimbola Osundairo said he did not know definitively why Smollett came up with the hoax.

“If I say something it’s gonna be opinion. It’s not gonna be based off anything he said. So I would think it’s to get people to feel for him more,” he said.

Yet Olabinjo Osundairo said he knew Smollett’s motivation. He said Smollett had received a piece of hate mail in recent weeks that the actor believed was ignored.

“He might not remember, but I’m gonna tell you guys,” Olabinjo Osundairo said in the video. “(Smollett) said his network is not taking the hate mail seriously, and that’s the reason why he wanted to do this. Because they wanted it taken seriously. I remember that vividly.”

The brothers, who worked as fitness trainers, also told police that Smollett had written them a check for $3,500. They said they believed the check was in exchange for a meal and workout plan ahead of Smollett appearing in a music video, as well as for the hoax attack.

“The way it was sounding it made it seem like it could be for either/or — for the video and for that,” Abimbola Osundairo said.

“I appreciate your candor and your honesty, I really do,” a detective told Olabinjo Osundairo.

In court, Smollett denied under oath that he orchestrated a hoax and testified he was truly a hate crime victim. He and his attorneys attempted to cast doubt on the brothers’ motivations and their story, but a jury unanimously voted to convict him.

Former police superintendent says Smollett shouldn’t get jail time

The documentary also features the perspectives of Johnson, the former police superintendent, and Foxx, the Cook County State’s Attorney.

Johnson was highly critical of Smollett in a news conference announcing the charges against him in February 2019. At the time, he said Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

Despite those harsh words, Johnson told CNN in the documentary that he did not believe Smollett should spend time behind bars.

“From the very beginning of this, I never thought he should serve any jail time. Just be held accountable for it,” he said.

Johnson was fired from his leadership role in December 2019 by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who said he lied about an incident in which he was found sleeping in his car after having drinks with dinner.

Foxx recused herself from the case in February 2019. Her office dropped all charges against Smollett that month after the actor agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and do community service, noting that he had no prior felonies and was not a danger to the community.

However, special prosecutor Webb was appointed to reexamine the case and to investigate whether Foxx’s office acted appropriately. Webb determined that the attorney’s office and Foxx engaged in “substantial abuses” in their handling of the case, but investigators found no evidence of criminal misconduct.

In the documentary, Foxx defended her decisions and progressive policies. She also questioned whether a jail sentence was appropriate in Smollett’s case.

“The question is was this justice and accountability? Or was this satiating a revenge for him not apologizing for what he did to the city?” Foxx said.

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