CHICAGO (AP) — Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett denied Monday that he staged an anti-gay, racist assault on himself in downtown Chicago, testifying at his trial that “there was no hoax.”
Smollett took the stand at his trial on charges he lied to Chicago police in regards to the assault in an try and refute damaging testimony from two brothers final week. They mentioned Smollett, who’s homosexual and Black, orchestrated the January 2019 hoax to get publicity, giving them $100 for provides and instructing them to put a noose round his neck and yell homophobic slurs. Additionally they mentioned Smollett gave them a $3,500 verify to hold it out.
However Smollett mentioned he wrote the $3,500 verify for vitamin and coaching recommendation from one of many brothers, Abimbola Osundairo, whereas he was going to be out of city, not as cost for Osundairo and his brother to hold out the assault. Requested by his protection legal professional if he gave Osundairo cost for some form of hoax, Smollett replied: “By no means.” He additionally mentioned “completely not” when requested if he gave Osundairo and his brother $100 to pay for provides for the hoax.
Smollett additionally testified that Osundairo instructed him about an natural steroid that encourages weight reduction however is unlawful within the U.S. He mentioned Osundairo instructed the actor he may get him some “on the low” — or secretly — whereas he was on an upcoming journey to Nigeria.
Osundairo testified that Smollett despatched him a textual content message — which the jury noticed final week — about speaking “on the low,” and that throughout the dialog Smollett requested him about serving to to stage the assault. Smollett mentioned Monday that message was in reference to the unlawful steroid, and he used language Osundairo had used beforehand.
Protection attorneys have recommended the brothers, who’re Black, had been motivated to accuse Smollett of staging the hoax as a result of they disliked him after which noticed a chance to make cash. They recommended that after the brothers, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, had been questioned by police in regards to the alleged assault, they requested Smollett for $1 million every to not testify in opposition to him at trial.
Smollett’s legal professionals even have argued that Chicago police rushed to judgment after they introduced prices in opposition to Smollett, and recommended a 3rd individual could have been concerned within the assault.
On the witness stand Monday, Smollett instructed the jury how he grew up in a close-knit household of six kids and began performing as a baby actor earlier than getting extra into music. He mentioned he “got here to phrases with” his sexuality in his early 20s, when he bought concerned in charity organizations, together with a gaggle that fights AIDS within the Black group.
He mentioned he auditioned for the position of a singer who’s homosexual on “Empire” as a result of he had by no means seen a Black man portrayed that means. By season 5, Smollett mentioned he was being paid $100,000 per episode.
Smollett mentioned he met Abimbola Osundairo in 2017 at a membership, the place he discovered Osundairo additionally labored on the set of “Empire.” He mentioned the 2 males did medication collectively and went to a bathhouse, the place Smollett mentioned they “made out.” Over time, he mentioned the 2 males did extra medication and took part in intercourse acts collectively. Osundairo testified final week that he and Smollett didn’t have a sexual relationship.
Smollett testified that he met Abimbola’s brother, Olabingo, however that they did not communicate and “he form of freaked me out.” He mentioned Abimbola Osundairo made it look like they wanted to “sneak off” after they had been collectively round his brother. Smollett mentioned he by no means trusted Olabingo Osundairo.
Prosecutors say Smollett staged the attack as a result of he was sad with the “Empire” studio’s response to hate mail he obtained. The letter together with a drawing of a stick determine hanging by a noose, with a gun pointed at it, and the phrase “MAGA” — an obvious reference to then-President Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Nice Once more.” The Osundairo brothers testified that Smollett instructed them to yell “that is MAGA nation” throughout the pretend assault.
Brett Mahoney, who produced “Empire” in Chicago, testified earlier Monday that Smollett referred to as him after the hate mail was despatched to the set.
“We had been clearly all very upset in regards to the letter,” Mahoney mentioned, including that regulation enforcement was contacted and the letter turned over to authorities. He mentioned Smollett agreed to added on-set safety, however didn’t need anybody following him dwelling as a result of he felt it was too intrusive.
Smollett testified that he thought the studio was doing or suggesting an excessive amount of safety, comparable to wanting somebody to drive him to and from the “Empire” set. He mentioned Abimbola Osundairo joked about turning into his safety, however that he didn’t take it severely.
“It wasn’t one thing that was going to be,” Smollett mentioned.
Additionally Monday, safety guard Anthony Moore mentioned that across the time of the alleged assault, he noticed an individual on the bottom on the finish of the block and two males working, certainly one of whom was white. Moore mentioned he instructed police what he noticed, however when he was later questioned by the particular prosecutor he felt pressured to alter his story. Moore testified that he signed a press release that mentioned the individual was “probably” a Black man, however that he felt “stress and threatened to place one thing on the market that I didn’t see.”
Beneath cross-examination, Moore mentioned he solely noticed the person for one to 2 seconds. He additionally mentioned he thought the boys had been playing around, and that the 2 males had been laughing as they ran by him.
Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report in regards to the alleged assault — one depend for every time he gave a report — to 3 totally different officers. The category 4 felony carries a jail sentence of as much as three years, however specialists have mentioned if Smollett is convicted he possible can be positioned on probation and ordered to carry out group service.
Try the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.
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