CHICAGO – Jussie Smollett’s legal team will on Thursday seek to discredit a star witness who testified the day before that he said the former “Empire” actor recruited him and his brother to stage a racist, homophobic attack on Smollett.
But casting doubt on Abimbola Osundairo’s testimony when the defense begins to cross-examine the aspiring actor will not be easy. Much of what he told jurors from the stands on Wednesday appeared to be corroborated by video and other evidence.
Osundairo testified that Smollett gave him and his brother advance instructions on how they should perform the hoax on January 29, 2019. Smollett also planned a “dry run” and gave him a $100 bill for supplies, Osundairo said.
Osundairo told juror Smollett instructed him to punch Smollett but “not too hard.” Once Smollett was on the ground, Osundairo said Smollett said he should give Smollett a “bruise” and “give him a noogie” – or rub his knuckles on Smollett’s head.
Osundairo, who used to work on “Empire”, said he and his brother agreed because he felt indebted to Smollett for helping him in his acting career.
Smollett, 39, was charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors said was a fake police report – one count for each time he reported – for three different officers. The fourth-degree felony carries a sentence of up to three years in prison, but experts say if Smollett is found guilty he could potentially be placed on probation and ordered to do community service.
Osundairo testified that he and his brother had difficulty locating a good location for the staged attack, while walking around in the early morning hours of January 29 in what Osundairo described as weather. “colder than a penguin’s feet.”
According to Osundario, when the brothers spotted Smollett around 2 a.m., Osundairo – as directed by Smollett earlier – shouted a homophobic slur and his brother yelled, “This is it MAGA country.” “MAGA” is an obvious reference to then-President of the United States Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”
After punching Smollett in the face and throwing the actor to the ground, they put a noose around his neck and threw bleach at him, then fled, Osundairo told jurors.
The next morning, upon news of a hate crime against Smollett, Osundairo said he texted Smollett condolences, as well as being instructed. It read: “Bruh, that’s not true. I’m praying for a speedy recovery.”
Osundairo testified that Smollett gave him a check for $3,500 and wrote on it that it was a nutrition and exercise program. But Osundairo said the money was both for the show and for helping orchestrate the attack.
A defense attorney told jurors during opening hour that Smollett was a “real victim” and that the brothers’ accounts were unreliable.
Before January 29, 2019, Osundairo said Smollett had sent him a text message asking to meet “at a low level”, which he assumed was a private meeting about something secret. Osundairo said that it was at that meeting that Smollett first asked him to “fake hit him” and asked if his brother could help. Osundairo said he was “confused” and “confused” by the request.
Smollett said a camera in the area would record the attack and that he wanted to use the recording for communication purposes, Osundairo testified.
Also on Wednesday, Chicago police detective Kimberly Murray, who interviewed Smollett on the morning of the attack, said he told her he had received a threatening phone call a few days earlier. , but he refused to hand over his cell phone, which the detective said could help police work together. a timeline. She said Smollett would also not agree to provide medical records or a DNA swab.
Murray also said Smollett told her he was attacked by two men – one white and wearing a ski mask, the other he couldn’t see – as he was returning home after when buying a sandwich.
A Chicago police officer testified Tuesday that investigators tracked down the Osundairo brothers, who are black, using surveillance video and taxi and carpooling records. When arrested, the siblings detailed to police how Smollett staged the mock attack.
A detective who interviewed Smollett after the brothers were arrested said Smollett then began changing his story. Smollett told Detective Robert Graves that the attacker had “pale skin,” when he had previously said the attacker was white.
Graves also told Smollett that the brothers were being held for hate crimes.
“He said, ‘It can’t be them, they’re black as sin,” Graves recounted, and said he understood that meant the brothers’ skin was very dark.
Graves testified that in the February 14 interview, Smollett said he would sign the complaint against the brothers, even though his attorney stopped him. About 90 minutes later, Smollett sent one of the brothers a text message, Graves said.
“I know 1000% of you and your brother did nothing wrong and never will,” the text read.
Graves said he concluded Smollett lied to him.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche said the brothers attacked Smollett, who is black and gay, “because of who he is” and accused the brothers of being homophobic.
Associated Press journalist Michael Tarm contributed to this report.