The brothers’ defamation lawsuit in the Smollett case can go ahead

Chicago federal judge says defamation lawsuit brought by two brothers who said they participated in fake hate crime against Jussie Smollett can go forward

The Chicago Tribune reported that U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland’s ruling centered on comments made by Tina Glandian on NBC’s “Today” show in March 2019, shortly after the state’s attorney in Cook County announced it was dropping charges accusing Smollett of lying to police about the incident two months earlier.

Discussing how Smollett told police one of his attackers was white, Glandian said the very dark-skinned brothers might have “worn makeup” to disguise their color. Additionally, she slammed Chicago police for their alleged failure to investigate an online video. showing one of the brothers “in whiteface doing a joke monologue with white makeup”.

Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo filed a libel suit, alleging the comments were part of an effort to portray them as racist, homophobic and violent men who really attacked Smollett.

On Friday, Rowland suggested Glandian’s comments could be considered defamatory, an apparent attempt by the lawyer to “dispel the inconsistency in Smollett’s story (the attackers were light-skinned) and bolster his claim that the plaintiffs (who are not light-skinned) were Smollett’s attackers.

“Taken in context, Glandian asserted the plaintiffs’ involvement in a racially motivated attack,” Rowland wrote. “Explaining that the attackers were white, read in context, adds the implication that the attack was a hate crime.”

The ruling means the defamation charge against Glandian could go to trial.

“They look forward to their day in court and will continue to defend themselves against further defamatory comments,” the brothers’ attorney Gloria Rodriguez told the Chicago Tribune.

A call to Glandian at his Los Angeles office was not immediately returned.

The ruling is the latest legal twist in a story that has been chock-full of them. It started with a search for assailants that turned into an investigation into Smollett and felony charges against the actor for allegedly lying to police. Authorities said he hired the brothers to carry out a fake attack.

Just last week, three months after a jury found him guilty of disorderly conduct, a judge sentenced the actor to 150 days in jail. Smollett was six days into his sentence on Wednesday when an appeals court ordered his release pending an appeal of his conviction and sentence.


Check out the AP’s full coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

ABC News

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