What exactly did Jussie Smollet’s attorneys say to prosecutors yesterday that stopped them from presenting testimony from two Nigerian brothers to the grand jury? CBS News reports this morning that the “Hail Mary” call worked — at least for now:
A source tells CBS News that a last-minute phone call might have kept the case against "Empire" star Jussie Smollett from going to a grand jury. The actor claims he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack last month, as he walked home in the middle of the night. pic.twitter.com/4E9zG9rJNn
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 20, 2019
A source close to the investigation tells CBS News the brothers were set to appear in front of a grand jury Tuesday. But CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports those plans were abruptly scrapped after a “Hail Mary” call from Smollett’s defense team.
CBS News has learned that Nigerian brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo were waiting outside the grand jury chambers, just minutes from testifying, when prosecutors got the call from Smollett’s lawyers.
It’s unclear what the defense said, but the Cook County state’s attorney decided to postpone the brothers’ testimony, which would have been the first step toward indicting the 36-year-old actor for filing a false police report.
Hmmmm. The grand-jury move came after Smollett stopped cooperating with the investigation, refusing requests for a follow-up interview. CBS also reports that prosecutors have now issued a number of search warrants for Smollett’s financial and phone records, and this time not the heavily redacted copies Smollett first provided police. That’s a lot of pressure on someone who might have something significant to hide. If prosecutors were willing to postpone the Osundairos’ testimony, they must have gotten some promises of more cooperation in exchange.
Of course, that may not matter much anyway. As noted earlier and also in the video above, the two brothers now allegedly claim that Smollett engineered the threat letter that contained white powder — aspirin, as it turns out — sent to Empire’s production company. The FBI has now reportedly entered the probe in relation to that development, signaling a more ominous turn for Smollett and a lot more work for his attorneys. A charge of filing a false police report is peanuts next to the serious federal felonies involving threats sent by US mail.
If so, the call may not have been much of a “Hail Mary” play at all. It might have been a recognition that this case has grown beyond the local grand jury, and that the big question now involves more than just public humiliation for Smollett if he did indeed perpetrate two hoax attacks. His defense team has to be looking for a way out of what looks like a self-built trap.