On the first day of actor Jussie Smollett’s criminal trial yesterday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, the actor’s defense attorney, Nenye Uche, wasted no time painting a picture of a hate crime, accusing brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo of attacking Smollett in the early morning hours of January 29, 2019. Why? Because they “did not like him as a person,” said Uche, according to the New York Post.
Smollett, who is accused of lying to police about being attacked by two white men who allegedly tied a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and yelled homophobic and racist slurs near his Chicago apartment, is facing six felony counts of disorderly conduct. If convicted, he could face a maximum of three years in prison.
On Tuesday, Detective Michael Theis testified, saying that more than two dozen police officers worked the case, spending 3,000 staff hours on the investigation while combing through 1,500 hours of video footage, according to ABC 7.
The Osundairos, who are also expected to take the stand for the prosecution sometime this week, told Chicago police that Smollett asked them to stage an attack on him and that they were paid $3,500 by check, even doing a practice run before the night in question. There is video evidence of the dry run, according to prosecutors.
The brothers also told investigators that Smollett told them to “make it look more like a lynching, like a crime crime.”
In addition to the star witnesses’ testimony, Smollett’s defense may have a lot to overcome in terms of evidence against their client, including damning communications between Smollett and the two men, with whom he worked on the set of Empire.
According to special prosecutor Dan Webb, Smollett sent a text message to the brothers that read, in part, “I want you to attack me, but when you hit me, I want you to kind of pull your punches a bit because I don’t want to get seriously hurt.”
Webb told jurors that Smollett “developed a secret plan that would make it appear that there was actually a hate crime that actually occurred against him by supporters of Donald Trump,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Meanwhile, Smollett’s defense argued that the money the actor paid to the brothers was for personal-training sessions, not to attack him. The defense also brought up the notion of a third attacker, though no other details were provided about the identity of the alleged attacker or whether there is evidence to support the claim that a fourth person was on the scene that night.
Outside the courthouse, the actor’s brother Jojo Smollett told reporters that “we look forward to people hearing the actual facts in this case. It has been incredibly painful as his family to watch someone you love be accused of something they did not do.”
Smollett pleaded not guilty to all charges. It’s uncertain whether he will testify in his own defense.