A federal judge ruled Friday that two witnesses in the Jussie Smollett case had grounds to sue the actor’s legal team for defamation, a day after Smollett’s lawyers filed a counter-suit.
Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, brothers who were paid by Smollett to help him stage a hate crime, were potentially defamed when Smollett attorney Tina Glandian went on the Today show and suggested the pair had been in “whiteface,” US District Judge Mary Rowland said.
Glandian appeared on the show in March 2019.
Asked why Smollett had told police that one of his attackers was white, Glandian said that the very dark-skinned brothers might have “put makeup on” to disguise their color. The attorney also criticized Chicago police for allegedly failing to investigate an online video showing one of the brothers “in whiteface doing a joke monologue with white makeup on.”
“…taken in context, Glandian was asserting Plaintiffs’ involvement in a racially motivated attack,” Rowland said in a written ruling.
“Explaining that the attackers were white, read in context, adds the implication that the attack was a hate crime,” she added. “Based on the ‘whiteface’ statement, Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged defamation.”
While other claims of defamation by the brothers have been, Friday’s ruling allows a narrower defamation case to move forward.
The ruling comes one day after Glandian’s law firm, Geragos & Geragos, filed a suit against the brothers in Cook County, Illinois, alleging the two tried to “inject themselves into the limelight” through “manipulation” of the federal court system with an intentionally frivolous follows.
That suit alleges that the Osundairo brother’s defamation suit “fabricated statements out of thin air and falsely attributed them to [Smollett attorney Mark] Geragos”
That also follows names attorneys for the Osundairo brothers as defendants, claiming that they “improperly opined” on Smollett’s guilt on national TV.
Smollett was released from jail Wednesday night pending appeal after serving six days of jail time following his conviction on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for lying to police.
With post wires