One of Jussie Smollett’s defense lawyers filed a “malicious prosecution” lawsuit Friday against the star witnesses at the actor’s hate hoax trial, saying recently dismissed defamation claims against him were fabricated “out of thin air,” wasting his time and money.
The new civil lawsuit from celebrity attorney Mark Geragos against brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo in Illinois state court followed shortly after a federal judge allowed a related defamation claim against Geragos’ co-worker Tina Glandian to proceed.
In paperwork obtained by Rolling Stone, Geragos says the Osundairo brothers sued him in April 2019 with “frivolous and fraudulent” claims that he defamed them on his podcast Reasonable Doubt earlier that month.
“They fabricated statements out of thin air and falsely attributed them to Mr. Geragos. In actuality, and as the transcript of the podcast reveals, Mr. Geragos never said anything remotely similar to what the complaint alleged,” the new lawsuit states. The defamation claims against Mark Geragos were dismissed in federal court prior to the new lawsuit.
“Since the time the fraudulent lawsuit was filed, [Geragos and his firm] have wasted considerable time, effort, and resources to defend themselves, and to mitigate the damage to their reputation that flowed from defendants’ reckless and malicious actions,” the filing states.
The new lawsuit further alleges the Osundairo brothers sought to “exploit” their involvement in Smollett’s alleged attack “for shameless self-promotion and monetary gain.” It claims that when the brothers’ allegations against Geragos “did not pan out,” they “tried to monetize their newfound infamy” by launching an NFT collection depicting a Subway restaurant renamed as “Subday,” a hardware store and a black Mercedes-Benz with a red hat on its dashboard. The brothers also used their Instagram accounts to sell $60 red baseball caps featuring a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, the lawsuit reads.
Smollett told Chicago Police he was returning from a Subway restaurant when his alleged attackers dropped a noose around his neck, poured an unknown liquid on his body, pelted him with racist and homophobic slurs and yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
“The entire NFT collection is intended as some sort of twisted parody of an event which the Osundairo brothers claimed to have ‘tremendous regret’ over,” Geragos’ lawsuit states.
A lawyer for the brothers stressed Friday that while Geragos and his law firm were dismissed as defendants, a claim in the original lawsuit against Glandian was still proceeding to trial. “The lawsuit against Tina Glandian still exists. The fact that that lawsuit is still ongoing flies in the face of this being a ‘malicious prosecution.’ Very often people file lawsuits against multiple parties, and parties get dismissed, and claims fail, but this thing is still going on. The court has ruled at this point that there’s still merit to this lawsuit,” Gregory Kulis, one of the lawyer representing the Osundairo brothers, tells Rolling Stone.
Asked about the Osundairo brothers’ NFT collection, Kulis said he was not aware of it: “Whatever the Osundairo brothers have going on, you’re going to have to speak to them. I have no knowledge of that. I represent them on one thing, one lawsuit.”
In the decision related to Glandian issued late Thursday, a federal court judge ruled that the bodybuilding brothers — who testified at Smollett’s December trial that the Empire actor paid them to stage the January 2019 attack — could continue to sue the lawyer with the surviving claim she defamed them with a “whiteface” comment on NBC’s Today show.
Glandian told Today’s Savannah Guthrie in March 2019 that Smollett told police he believed at least one of his attackers had “white or pale skin” under his ski mask and that it was possible the Osundairo brothers, who are Nigerian and who were connected to the attack through surveillance video, could have used “makeup” to appear white.
Glandian has argued her statement was constitutionally protected opinion and that wearing “whiteface” is not indicative of a hate crime. The court disagreed. “Taken in context, Glandian was asserting [the brothers’] involvement in a racially motivated attack,” U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland wrote in her ruling. “Based on the ‘whiteface’ statement, [the brothers] have plausibly alleged defamation per se and false light.”
Smollett, 39, was convicted of orchestrating the hate hoax at trial and ordered to serve five months in jail. He ended up spending six nights in Cook County Jail before he walked out of custody Wednesday night when an Illinois appellate court ordered him released on bond pending his appeal.