“There was no hoax,” Jussie Smollett testified after he took the stand in his own defense for the second day. The former Empire star defended himself in the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, this time being grilled by the prosecution a day after sharing his version of what happened. Though he did admit to knowing both Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, brothers he calls Abel and Ola, he said he did not hire them to beat him up almost three years ago. The defense claims the brothers took it upon themselves to attack Smollett because they were disgruntled about not being hired as his private security and they simply did not like him personally. The 39-year-old actor is facing six felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about what happened the early morning of January 29, 2019, when he claims he was the victim of a hate crime in his Streeterville neighborhood.
Yesterday, Smollett testified to being close with at least one of the brothers, at times using drugs and being sexually involved with Abel, an accusation the brother denied last week, when he told the court the actor paid both men $3,500 to fake the attack in a way that would draw public attention but not injure Smollett’s face.
“That’s a bold-faced lie,” Smollett said about the accusation. He said any communications with the brothers would have been about personal-training sessions.
When confronted with video evidence of Smollett and the brothers one night before the alleged attack occurred, he admitted he was with them and they did drive past the site of the attack but that they were just driving around smoking marijuana, something Smollett regularly said he did with the Osundairos, particularly Abel, and by himself.
The prosecution also asked Smollett why, when police first questioned him, he said he was attacked by two white men when the brothers are clearly Black. He said he didn’t recognize them — neither their voices nor their faces — because the attack happened so quickly.
At one point between the back-and-forth today, Smollett scolded prosecutor Dan Webb for reading private Instagram messages verbatim between the actor and Ola. He took offense to the white lawyer using the N-word in the courtroom, interrupting Webb at one point so as not to offend “every African American in this room.” Webb offered that Smollett read the messages aloud but refused to censor the language.
The majority of this morning’s cross-examination focused on the specific details of Smollett’s story compared with evidence Webb says proves he staged the attack and lied to investigators about it from the beginning. Webb focused on testimony from the brothers, who admitted to helping Smollett fake the incident in hopes of advancing their own careers in the entertainment business, something Webb says corresponds with a wealth of evidence against Smollett, including damning digital messages, a check for alleged payment, video surveillance of the men doing a dry run of the supposed attack, and cell-phone and ride-share location data. In response, the actor called the brothers “liars.”
Additional witnesses for the defense are expected to be called today.
Smollett denies all charges against him. If he’s found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison.