As prosecutors in Jussie Smollett’s criminal case continue to call witnesses to the stand in Chicago’s Leighton Criminal Courthouse, new details of the early morning of January 29, 2019, are beginning to emerge. Three years ago, the then-Empire actor reported to police that he was attacked by two white men who tied a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and shouted racist and homophobic slurs near his Streeterville home. But after two dozen investigators spent approximately 3,000 hours on the high-profile case, which drew international attention, prosecutors now say Smollett faked the attack and lied to police. He’s facing six felony counts of disorderly conduct.
Key prosecution witness Abimbola Osundairo, 28, one of two brothers police say Smollett hired to fake the assault, provided damning testimony late yesterday, saying the Empire actor “wanted me to fake beat him up.”
Known as “Bola,” Osundairo said Smollett gave him step-by-step directions about what he wanted done: “He wanted me to punch him, but he wanted me to pull the punch so I didn’t hurt him; and then he wanted me to tussle him and throw him to the ground and give him a bruise.” He further explained, “Then he wanted it to look like he was fighting back, so I was supposed to give him a chance to fight back and then eventually throw him to the ground and my brother would tie the noose around his neck and throw bleach on him.”
Abimbola said he participated in the alleged hoax because he thought Smollett could help him with his own acting career (both he and his brother, Olabinjo, were extras on Empire at the time). “He told me that we needed another person to fake beat him up,” Abimbola testified. “He mentioned my brother could do it. I said yes.”
He also revealed on the stand that Smollett told the brothers to leave their cell phones at home and to not use a rideshare service and asked Abimbola to send him a “condolence letter,” which he did after the crime made headlines. “He said there was going to be a camera to capture the fake attack,” Abimbola testified. “He wanted a camera to capture the fake attack.”
Abimbola described his relationship with Smollett prior to the incident, telling jurors that he considered him a good friend with whom he spent time smoking weed, visiting clubs, and even staying at the actor’s home. He added on the stand that Smollett often asked him to buy drugs for him, including marijuana, molly, and cocaine. “I would call him my brother,” he told the court. “I felt indebted to him.” Both brothers admitted to a grand jury that Smollett paid them $3,500 by check for the attack.
Prior to Osundairo’s testimony, the Chicago Police detective, Kimberly Murray, who interviewed Smollett after the alleged assault said the actor never identified the Osundairo brothers as his attackers. Instead, he described two white men as the perpetrators, saying they shouted epithets about “MAGA country,” a reference to former President Donald Trump. She also described Smollett’s injuries as “very minor,” noting a few abrasions, scratches, and redness around his neck in her initial report.
Murray said from the onset of the investigation, Smollett refused to turn over his cell phone and medical records and opted out of a DNA swab that could test for evidence from his attackers, according to AP News.
Murray also said that Smollett was “upset” when she informed him that the surveillance cameras in the area did not capture any footage of the assault. The day before the assault, however, Smollett could be seen with both brothers on a video shown to the jury on Tuesday doing what prosecutors describe as a “dry run.”
The newest testimony comes on the heels of Chicago detective Michael Theis saying earlier this week that a wealth of evidence, including surveillance video, GPS coordinates, cell phone communications, and taxi and rideshare records, ultimately convinced investigators that Smollett lied about being attacked and, more specifically, that he faked the whole incident.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, he could face a maximum three years in prison.