CHICAGO (NWN) — Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett denied Monday that he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself in downtown Chicago, testifying at his trial that “there was no cheating.”
Smollett, who faces charges that he lied to the Chicago police about January 2019 assault, tried to refute the damning testimony of two brothers Last week. He said Smollett, who is gay and black, bluffed to get publicity, giving him $100 for supplies and instructing him to put a noose around his neck and hurl homophobic slurs. He also said that Smollett gave him a check for $3,500 to complete it.
Smollett told the jury members He had just returned from a trip and was on his way home to buy a sandwich when someone yelled at him about the TV show and then started making a racist, homophobic remark. Smollett said he was furious and turned to confront the man, whom he said dominated him.
Standing in the Chicago courtroom, Smollett showed how the man she said quickly walked toward her, then pointed to her left temple to show the jury, where the man struck her.
“I think I landed a punch. But I don’t know if it landed,” Smollett said. He said that he slipped and they kept swinging on the ground for 30 seconds. Smollett said he saw a second person—who he believes kicked him on his side—as that person fled.
Smollett said that he believed the person who attacked him was white because he used racial slurs and shouted that it was “MAGA Country”, which was a response to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Again”. make great”. Brother, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundiro, who is black, testified last week that Smollett instructed him to shout “This is MAGA country” during the mock attack.
Smollett said he picked up his phone and told the person he was talking to that he “jumped in.” He saw that he had a noose around his neck when he got up, grabbed his sandwich and went to his apartment. Smollett said he removed the noose, but a friend at his apartment called the police and asked him to put the noose back on so officers could see it. Smollett said he was upset that the police had been called because he would never have done it.
“I’m a black man in America. I don’t trust the police,” Smollett said. “I’m still a well-known figure at the time and I’m an openly gay man.”
Smollett also testified that he wrote a $3,500 check from Abimbola Osundaro for nutrition and training advice while he was on his way out of town. Asked by his defense attorney whether he paid Osundairo for some sort of hoax, Smollett replied: “Never.”
The lawyer then asked if he had planned fraud.
“No,” said Smollett, “there was no cheating.”
He also said “not at all” when asked if he gave $100 to Osundaro and his brother for supplies for the counterfeit attack.
Smollett said after the news broke that everyone, including Trump, had an opinion about what had happened, and that he hated the attention.
“I have lost my livelihood,” he said.
Smollett also testified that Osundaro told her about an herbal steroid that encourages weight loss but is illegal in the US. When he was on an upcoming trip to Nigeria.
Osundaro testified that Smollett sent him a text message — which the jury saw last week — about talking “on the low” and that during the conversation Smollett asked him to help stage the attack. Smollett said on Monday that the message was in reference to illegal steroids, and he used language that Osundaro had previously used.
Defense lawyers have suggested that the Osundaro brothers were motivated to accuse Smollett of fraud because they disliked him and then saw an opportunity to make money. He suggested that after the brothers were questioned by police about the alleged assault, they asked Smollett for $1 million for not testifying against him at trial.
Smollett’s lawyers have also argued that the Chicago police ruled when they brought charges against Smollett, and suggested that a third person may have been involved in the attack.
Smollett said he met Abimbola Osundario in 2017 at a club where he learned Osundaro also worked on the set of “Empire.” He said the two men did drugs together and went to a bathhouse, where Smollett said he “made out.” Over time, he noted that both men took more drugs and participated in sexual acts together. Osundaro testified last week that he and Smollett did not have a sexual relationship.
Smollett testified that he had met Abimbola’s brother, Olabingo, but he did not speak and “he scared me.” He said that Abimbola Osundaro made it seem like he needed to “sneak” when he was together around his brother. Smollett said he never trusted Olabingo Osundario.
Prosecutors say Smollett staged attack Because he was unhappy with the response to the hate mail received by “Empire” studios. Letters depicting a stick figure hanging from a noose, with a gun pointed at it, and the word “maga”.
Brett Mahoney, who produced “Empire” in Chicago, testified earlier on Monday that law enforcement had been contacted and the letter was handed over to officers. He said Smollett agreed to add on-set security, but didn’t want anyone to follow him home because it was too intrusive.
Smollett testified that he felt the studio was being too protective or suggesting, as if someone wanted him to be taken on and off the set. He said Abimbola Osundaro made fun of him for being his security, but he didn’t take it seriously.
Also on Monday, security guard Anthony Moore said that at the time of the alleged attack, he saw a man on the ground at the end of the block and two people running, one of whom was white. Moore said she told police what she saw, but felt pressured to change her story when the special prosecutor later questioned her. Moore testified that he signed a statement saying the man was “probably” a black man, but that he “felt pressure and threatened to do something there that I didn’t see.”
Under cross-examination, Moore said she only looked at the man for one to two seconds. He also said that he thought they were making fools, and that the two men were laughing as they ran up to him.
Smollett, 39, has been charged with six counts of felony Prosecutors say it was a false police report about the alleged assault – one count for each time three different officers gave a report. A Class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said Smollett will likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service if convicted.
See NWN’s full coverage In the Jussie Smollett case.