Federal judge admits defamation lawsuit in Jussie Smollett trial
A federal judge ruled Friday that two witnesses in the Jussie Smollett case had grounds to sue the actor’s attorneys for defamation, a day after Smollett’s attorneys filed a countersuit.
Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, brothers who were paid by Smollett to help him stage a hate crime, may have been defamed when Smollett’s attorney, Tina Glandian, went on the Today Show and suggested the couple were “white-faced.” been, said US District Judge Mary Rowland.
Glandian appeared on the show in March 2019.
When asked why Smollett told police one of his attackers was white, Glandian said the very dark-skinned brothers may have “put on makeup” to disguise their color. The attorney also criticized the Chicago Police Department for allegedly failing to investigate an online video showing one of the brothers “white-faced doing a joke monologue with white makeup.”
“…in context, Glandian alleged the plaintiffs’ involvement in a racially motivated attack,” Rowland said in a written judgment.
“The explanation that the attackers were white, read in context, adds the implication that the attack was a hate crime,” she added. “Based on the ‘Whiteface’ testimony, plaintiffs have made plausible allegations of defamation.”
While other defamation lawsuits have been filed by the brothers, Friday’s ruling allows a narrower defamation case to move forward.
The ruling comes a day after Glandian’s law firm, Geragos & Geragos, filed a lawsuit against the brothers in Cook County, Illinois, alleging the two had attempted to willfully seek the spotlight by “manipulating” the federal court system in a frivolous suit .
That lawsuit alleges that the Osundairo brother’s defamation lawsuit “fabricated statements out of thin air and falsely attributed them [Smollett attorney Mark] Geragos”
The lawsuit also names lawyers for the Osundairo brothers as defendants, alleging that they made “improper opinions” about Smollett’s guilt on national television.
Smollett was released from jail Wednesday night pending an appeal after serving six days in jail after being convicted of lying to police on five counts of disorderly conduct.
With mail wires