Brothers in Jussie Smollett Case Can Sue Over 'Whiteface' Comment: Judge

A judge has determined that the brothers at the center of Jussie Smollett's hoax controversy can continue their lawsuit against one of the actor's attorneys.

A ruling on Friday from U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland allows a defamation suit filed by Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo against attorney Tina Glandian to continue. The lawsuit will center around a specific comment made by Glandian during a 2019 Today show appearance, when she said that Chicago police failed to investigate a video where one of the brothers donned "whiteface doing a Joker monologue" as well as the idea that the brothers could have "put makeup on" to disguise their skin color, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"Taken in context, Glandian was asserting plaintiffs' involvement in a racially motivated attack," Rowland wrote in her decision, the Associated Press reported. "Explaining that the attackers were white, read in context, adds the implication that the attack was a hate crime."

The Osundairo brothers' defamation suit was filed in April 2019, almost two years before Smollett was found guilty of disorderly conduct. The actor was recently sentenced to 150 days in jail, although he was released six days into his sentence after filing an appeal. Gene Rossi, a former career federal prosecutor who spoke to Newsweek, said Smollett's early release is likely to be cited by other defense attorneys and defendants in the future requesting similar treatment.

Gloria Rodriguez, the attorney for the Osundairo brothers, sent a statement to Newsweek expressing her approval of the judge's decision.

"The Osundairo brothers are pleased with the court's ruling and are ready to continue litigating their case against the Defendant," wrote Rodriguez. "They will continue defending themselves against all smear campaigns and untrue, defamatory remarks made about them."

While the lawsuit against Glandian can continue, one aspect of the lawsuit was dropped by Rowland. The judge dismissed the accusations against the lawyer's firm, Geragos & Geragos, from the lawsuit, the Tribune added. When speaking to Newsweek, principal attorney Mark Geragos said that he believed his associate will find justice.

"I'm confident that Tina will be vindicated in due course," said Geragos, "and I'm looking forward to holding this entire squad [referring to the Osundairo brothers and their legal team] accountable for their malicious actions."

The judge's decision on the Glandian lawsuit comes a day after the firm filed a complaint against the Osundairo brothers and their legal team for targeting Geragos. In the complaint, the firm called the defamation lawsuit frivolous and accused the brothers of trying to profit off of Smollett's conviction through NFT projects.

"Since the time the fraudulent lawsuit was filed, Plaintiffs 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," wrote the firm in its complaint.

Update at 3/18/22, 5:35 p.m. ET: This story was updated with statements from Mark Geragos and Gloria Rodriguez.

Osundairo 2020
A U.S. District Judge in Chicago ruled Friday that an attorney for Jussie Smollett might have defamed the two Black brothers who testified that they participated in a fake racist and homophobic attack on the actor when she suggested they had been wearing "whiteface." Above, brothers Olabinjo Osundairo, right, and Abimbola Osundairo appear outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on February 24, 2020. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File