Former rich Actor Jussie Smollett denied staging an anti-gay, racist attack on himself in downtown Chicago on Monday and testified at his trial that “there was no joke”.
Smollett, charged with lied to the Chicago police about the January 2019 attack, tried last week to refute harmful statements by two brothers. They said Smollett, who is gay and black, staged the joke to advertise, gave them $ 100 for supplies, and directed them to put a noose around his neck and scream homophobic slurs. They also said Smollett gave them a check for $ 3,500 to do this.
Smollett told jurors he had just returned from a trip and was walking home after buying a sandwich when someone yelled at him over the TV show and then yelled a racist, homophobic remark. Smollett said he was angry and turned to confront the person towering over him.
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Smollett stood up in the Chicago courtroom and demonstrated how he said the man walked up to him quickly, then pointed to his left temple to show the jury where the man hit him.
“I would like to believe that I hit a punch. But I don’t know if it landed, ”said Smollett. He said he slipped and they wrestled on the floor for up to 30 seconds. Smollett said he saw a second person – who he believes kicked his side – when that person ran away.
Smollett said he believed the person who attacked him was white because he used a racial slur shouting it was “MAGA Land,” an obvious reference to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again “. Brothers Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, who are Black, testified last week that Smollett directed them to shout “This is MAGA land” during the fake attack.
Smollett said he picked up his phone and told the person he spoke to that he had been “ambushed”. He realized he had a noose around his neck when he got up, grabbed his sandwich, and went to his apartment. Smollett said he had removed the noose, but a friend who was at his apartment called the police and told him to put the noose back on so officers could see it. Smollett said he was upset because the police were called because he never did.
“I’m black in America. I don’t trust the police, ”said Smollett. “I’m a well-known person back then and I’m an openly gay man.”
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Smollett also testified that he wrote the check for $ 3,500 for nutrition and exercise advice from Abimbola Osundairo while he was out of town. When asked by his defense attorney if he paid Osundairo for a joke, Smollett replied, “Never.”
The lawyer asked again if he was kidding.
“No,” said Smollett, “there was no joke.”
He also said “absolutely not” when asked if he had given Osundairo and his brother $ 100 to pay for supplies for the bogus attack.
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Smollett said after the news broke that everyone – including Trump – had an opinion on what had happened and that he hated the attention.
“I’ve lost my livelihood,” he added.
Smollett also testified that Osundairo told him about a herbal steroid that is used to stimulate weight loss but is illegal in the United States.
Osundairo testified that Smollett had texted him that the jury saw last week about the conversation “at rock bottom” and that Smollett asked him during the conversation if he could help orchestrate the attack. Smollett said Monday that the message was related to the illegal steroid and that he was using the language Osundairo had previously used.
Defense lawyers have suggested that the Osundairo brothers were motivated to accuse Smollett of staging the joke because they didn’t like it and then saw an opportunity to make money. They suggested that after the brothers were questioned by police about the alleged attack, they asked Smollett for a million dollars each to avoid testifying against him.
Smollett’s attorneys also argued that the Chicago police were rashly convicted when they brought charges against Smollett, and suggested that a third person may have been involved in the attack.
Smollett said he met Abimbola Osundairo at a club in 2017, where he learned that Osundairo was also working on the set of Rich. He said the two men did drugs together and went to a bathhouse where Smollett said they “made out”. Over time, he said the two men used more drugs and engaged in sexual acts together. Osundairo testified last week that he and Smollett had no sexual relationship.
Smollett testified that he met Abimbola’s brother, Olabingo, but that they hadn’t spoken and “he kind of freaked me out.” He said Abimbola Osundairo made it appear like they would have to “sneak away” when they were around his brother. Smollett said he never trusted Olabingo Osundairo.
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Prosecutors say Smollett orchestrated the attack because he was involved with the rich Studio’s response to hate mail received. The letter contains a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a noose with a gun pointed at it and the word “MAGA”.
Brett Mahoney, who produced rich in Chicago, testified Monday that law enforcement officials had been contacted and the letter delivered to the authorities. He said Smollett agreed to increase security on the set but didn’t want anyone to follow him home because it was too intrusive.
Smollett testified that he believed the studio was doing or implying too much security, such as having someone drive him to and from the set. He said Abimbola Osundairo joked about becoming his safety, but he doesn’t take it seriously.
Also on Monday, security officer Anthony Moore said that at the time of the alleged attack at the end of the block he saw a person on the ground and two men running, one of whom was white. Moore said he told police what he saw, but when he was later questioned by the special prosecutor, he felt pressured to change his story. Moore testified that he had signed a statement saying the person was “possibly” black but feels “pressured and threatened to do something I haven’t seen.”
On cross-examination, Moore said he only saw the man for a second or two. He also said that he thought the men were fooling around and that the two men would laugh as they walked past him.
Smollett, 39, has been charged with six misconduct charges for providing false police reports of the alleged attack to three different officers – one count for each complaint he made. The Grade 4 crime carries up to three years’ imprisonment, but experts have said that if convicted, Smollett is likely to be paroled and given community service.
© 2021 The Canadian Press