That all changed after police arrested two U.S.-born brothers of Nigerian descent – Abel and Ola Osundairo – as they arrived in Chicago Feb. 13 from a two-week trip overseas.
Abel, 25, was a close friend and personal trainer of Smollett who provided the actor with the club drug Ecstasy, prosecutors say. Both brothers had worked on the set of “Empire.”
Smollett was charged this week with disorderly conduct by filing a false police report.
Prosecutors say he falsely told police that the perpetrators flung racial and homophobic slurs as they pummeled him, poured a chemical substance on him, and screamed “This is MAGA Country,” a reference to President Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
He remains free on $100,000 bond as he awaits trial.
The Osundairo brothers initially resisted giving police much information. But as investigators prepared to charge them with a hate crime, prosecutors say, they came clean.
Eventually, the Osundairos’ defense attorney Gloria Schmidt told police her clients would give police a video statement.
The brothers said Smollett paid them $3,500 to assist with a carefully choreographed attack, police and prosecutors say. They also said Smollett was involved in sending a threatening letter addressed to him at the Chicago studio where “Empire” is filmed. The letter arrived at the studio one week before the alleged hoax attack.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett was unsatisfied with his salary for the Fox television show and wanted to use the attack to raise his profile.
Investigators say they learned many of the details of the alleged conspiracy through their conversations with the Osundairos.
The brothers might never have made it on to detectives’ radar if it weren’t for an array of roughly 55 city, business and doorbell cameras that captured snippets of the men’s movements as they came to and from the crime scene.
“It was because of these (police) cameras, our investment in technology in the city of Chicago and the great assistance from the community with those other cameras that led us to a really solid timeline of where our two persons of interest went,” said Commander Edward Wodnicki, who led the team of detectives investigating the case.