|Jussie Smollett | Good Morning America
Chicago police late Friday released two Lakeview men who had been questioned for two days as “potential persons of interest” and, later, “potential suspects” in the alleged hate crime attack of Empire TV star Jussie Smollett early on Jan. 29 in Streeterville.
“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations” Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and his brother Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo were released, said Anthony Guglielmi, the top spokesperson for Chicago police. “Detectives have additional investigative work to complete.”
The Osundairos are no longer considered suspects by investigators, whose full attention is now focused squarely on Smollett, according to well-established sources.
CWBChicago has learned that federal investigators sat in as Chicago police interrogated the Osundairo brothers for two days after the men were taken into custody at O’Hare airport on Wednesday evening. The Osundairos flew into the airport minutes earlier, returning from a trip to Nigeria that began hours after Smollett reported being attacked.
|Abel (L) and Ola Osundairo | TMZ
The brothers, who have a relationship with Smollett and served as extras on his TV show, saw their status with police evolve from “potential persons of interest” to “potential suspects” to being “unable to leave” custody because investigators had “probable cause that they were involved in a crime” to being set free in the course of 48 hours.
Meanwhile, Smollett has lawyered up big time.
High-priced defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Michael Monico told WGN radio host Roe Conn on Friday that he was representing Smollett “at the moment.”
Federal investigators have been looking into the origins of a hate letter that was mailed to Smollett from the southwest suburbs about a week before he reported being attacked. The mailing, which contained a white powder that reportedly turned out to be Tylenol, mentioned Smollett by name and included anti-black and anti-gay slurs as well as a stick figure bound in a noose. Its return address was “MAGA,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 “Make America Great Again” slogan. Many elements of the letter were reflected in the details of the attack that Smollett gave to police.
|Michael Monico | Monico & Spevack
The actor has been outspoken about his displeasure with Trump, most recently telling Good Morning America that he believed that his opposition to Trump may have been a motivating factor for his purported attackers.
“I come really, really hard against 45,” he said. “I come really, really hard against his administration and I don’t hold my tongue.”
But, in a case of misery making strange bedfellows, Smollett’s new attorney, Monico, also represents Michael Cohen, the former long-time personal attorney for the president.
Standing outside Area Central Police Headquarters Friday night, the Osundairo brothers’ lawyer dropped hints that the road ahead may be rough for Smollett.
“My guys are walking home. They are not charged,” Gloria Schmidt said before indicating that the Osundairos had information about the Smollett case that was shared with police after some “coordination.”
And, she pointed out, “I’m not part of Jussie’s defense.”
CWBChicago has previously reported the following:
• Smollett said in an interview aired on Good Morning America Wednesday that he believed the two persons of interest seen in the CPD images were the persons who attacked him. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.” Hours later, police announced that they had those two men in custody — the Osundairo brothers.
• That police used “rideshare and/or taxicab records” to identify the “persons of interest” and to track their movements on the night of the purported attack.
• Based on a tip provided to CWBChicago more than a week before the Osundairos were taken into custody, all signs indicate that police slow-played the Smollett case until the timing was right for them to act. The tip stated that two black friends of Smollett took Lyft from the Wrigleyville area to Streeterville where they “attacked” Smollett and then returned home. The two friends would be the ones seen on video, the tipster said, adding that the “rope” found around Smollett’s neck would prove to be clothesline purchased from Ace Hardware. So far, many details of the tip have panned out. Others remain to be proven.