CHICAGO — Two brothers who were said to have assaulted the actor Jussie Smollett in what the police called a staged hate crime filed a federal defamation lawsuit Tuesday against the entertainer’s legal team.
The brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, said in the lawsuit that Mr. Smollett, an actor on “Empire,” orchestrated the fake attack against himself earlier this year and that two of the actor’s lawyers, Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian, then lied repeatedly about what happened.
“He wanted his employer and the public to notice and appreciate him as a successful black, openly gay actor,” the lawsuit said. “So, Mr. Smollett directed every aspect of the attack, including the location and the noose.”
The reported attack, which involved the use of a noose and bleach and took place on Jan. 29 in an upscale Chicago neighborhood near downtown, has held the attention of the city for months.
At first, reports that Mr. Smollett was targeted for being a black, gay man led to outpourings of sympathy and vows to find the men responsible. But as weeks passed, skepticism grew, and the police eventually arrested Mr. Smollett, who they said conjured up the supposed crime and paid the Osundairo brothers to carry it out. The case grew still more complex weeks later when prosecutors dropped the charges against Mr. Smollett, who has maintained his innocence all along.
Following the dismissal of charges against Mr. Smollett, Mr. Geragos and Ms. Glandian said Mr. Smollett had told detectives the truth, and suggested that the Osundairo brothers were culpable for the attack. Ms. Glandian said in an interview on the “Today” show that the brothers, who are black, may have been wearing whiteface during the incident.
Ms. Glandian did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday morning. Mr. Geragos responded to an email but did not comment on the lawsuit.
At a news conference Tuesday in downtown Chicago, the Osundairo brothers’ lawyers framed the lawsuit as a way of restoring their reputations. They said the brothers, who grew up in Chicago, played college football and sometimes had minor acting jobs, had struggled to find work in recent weeks and had been harassed by reporters.
“My city, my police department and my clients all deserve to have their reputations restored,” said Gloria Schmidt, a lawyer for the brothers.
Ms. Schmidt also read a statement from the brothers, who have said little publicly since they were detained by the police.
“We have sat back and watched lie after lie being fabricated about us in the media, only so one big lie can continue to have life,” the brothers’ statement said. “These lies are destroying our character and our reputation in our personal and professional lives.”
The brothers’ lawsuit increases the likelihood that what happened that January night will eventually be argued in a courtroom. Those issues could also be debated in state court, where the city has sued Mr. Smollett for the costs of its police investigation.
Meanwhile, fallout from the case continues to grow. The county inspector general is investigating how prosecutors handled the case. And in text messages released last week, the elected prosecutor, Kim Foxx, who turned over the case to one of her colleagues, expressed concern to colleagues that Mr. Smollett had been overcharged. Weeks later, the case was dropped.