Jussie Smollett will testify again in his Chicago trial on Tuesday, where the former “Empire” actor called claims that he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself “100% false.”
Prosecutors will continue cross-examining the 39-year-old, who remained composed during several hours of testimony on Monday. He told jurors that “there was no hoax” and that he was the victim of a hate crime in his Chicago neighborhood.
Smollett began testifying about what happened in January 2019 in an attempt to refute damaging testimony from two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who testified as the state’s star witnesses last week. According to the brothers, Smollett orchestrated the hoax in order to gain publicity, giving them $100 in supplies and instructing them to tie a noose around his neck and yell homophobic slurs. They also claimed Smollett paid them $3,500 to carry out the attack.
When asked on the stand by his defense attorney if he paid Abimbola Osundairo for some kind of hoax, Smollett replied, “Never.”
“There was no hoax,” said Smollett.
The Osundairo brothers, according to defense attorneys, were motivated to accuse Smollett of staging the hoax because they disliked him and saw an opportunity to make money. They claimed that after being questioned by police about the alleged attack, the brothers offered Smollett $1 million each to not testify against him at trial.
Smollett’s lawyers have also claimed that Chicago police acted too quickly when charging Smollett, and that a third person may have been involved in the attack.
Last week, Judge James Linn told jurors that he expected them to begin deliberations no later than Tuesday.
Smollett, 39, is charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report about the alleged attack, which law enforcement and prosecutors believe he did. The Class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts say that if Smollett is convicted, he will likely be placed on probation and possibly ordered to perform community service.
Smollett told the jury how he grew up in a close-knit family of six children and began acting as a child before becoming more interested in music. He said he “came to terms with my sexuality” in his early twenties, when he became involved in charity organizations such as one that fights AIDS in the Black community.
He stated that he auditioned for a role on “Empire” as a gay singer because he had never seen a Black man portrayed in that way. Smollett revealed in Season 5 that he was being paid $100,000 per episode.
Smollett claimed he met Abimbola Osundairo in a club in 2017 and discovered Osundairo also worked on the set of “Empire.” He claimed the two men did drugs together and went to a bathhouse, where they “made out,” according to Smollett. He claimed that over time, the two men did more drugs and performed sex acts together. Last week, Abimbola Osundairo testified that he and Smollett did not have a sexual relationship.
Smollett also testified on Monday that he gave a $3,500 check to a friend for nutrition and training advice, not as payment for the Osundairo brothers’ assistance in staging a racist, anti-gay attack on himself.
Smollett told jurors that on the day of the alleged attack, he was walking home after buying a sandwich when someone yelled at him about “Empire” and made a racist, homophobic remark. Smollett stated that the man approached him quickly after the actor turned around to confront the individual.
Smollett stated that he picked up his phone and informed the person he was speaking with that he “got jumped.” As he got up, grabbed his sandwich, and went up to his apartment, he realized he had a noose around his neck. Smollett claimed he removed the noose, but a friend at his apartment called police and told him to re-tie it so officers could see it. Smollett stated that he was upset that, police were called because he would never have done so.
Under cross-examination, Smollett said he refused to give Chicago police his cellphone for their investigation because he wanted his privacy. Asked by special prosecutor Dan Webb if he was concerned the phone would show several calls to Abimbola Osundairo, Smollett said no.