Empire star Jussie Smollett allegedly visited an upscale Chicago gay bathhouse with Ambimbola “Abel” Osundario, one of two brothers that the actor is accused of hiring to beat him up in order to stage an anti-gay hate crime.
According to a source close to the investigation, Smollett and Abel Osundario are alleged to have been involved in a sexual relationship.
“They went to this affluent Chicago bathhouse multiple times and they had to show ID. It’s known as a bathhouse where a lot of affluent black gay men hang out. There should be a record [of their visits],” the source told the New York Post‘s Page Six.
The bathhouse records may be subpoenaed in Smollett’s upcoming trial. Smollett was indicted in February after a court-appointed special prosecutor determined that there was sufficient evidence to move forward with six charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly making four separate false reports to police about the attack.
Abel Osundario and his brother, Ola, have denied they are gay. Last year, they sued Smollett’s lawyers, Tina Glandian and Mark Geragos, for defamation for making statements about the brothers’ involvement that were untrue, and for insinuating that there a sexual relationship between Smollett and Ola in an interview with Good Morning America.
The lawsuit — the bulk of which was dismissed last month — claims that the lawyers’ comments put the brothers and their family, who are Nigerian, at risk due to the country’s laws punishing homosexuality with up to 14 years in prison, or death by stoning if the accused person is married.
“Ola and Abel Osundairo have no interest in bringing further attention to false statements,” lawyers for the brothers said in a statement sent to the Post. “It is obvious the defendants in this lawsuit want to litigate in the media. Ola and Abel Osundairo are focused on revealing all the relevant information in this matter the right way: under oath and in a court of law.”
Smollett claimed he was attacked in January 2019 by two men, who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him, and tied a rope around his neck.
However, upon further investigation, Chicago police began highlighting irregularities in his statements, and ultimately accused him of hiring the Osundario brothers to stage the crime.
Smollett was subsequently charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct, but in a surprise move, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against him.
The decision to drop the charges has been questioned as politically motivated by some who have alleged Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx gave Smollett special treatment because his family is close to Tina Tchen, a former aide to Michelle Obama.
The issue has dogged Foxx’s re-election bid, through it did not hurt her significantly enough in the March 17 Democratic primary, which she won with nearly half the vote in a four-way race.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty to the six newer disorderly conduct charges against him. He claims he previously paid the brothers $3,500 for performance-enhancing drugs, not to stage the alleged attack.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!