Jussie Smollett’s lawyers suggested in court Thursday that two brothers at the center of the case attacked the actor to scare him into hiring them as his personal safety and later, to avoid criminal prosecution, falsely told police that Mr. Smollett had planned it all as a joke.
Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo each testified that in January 2019, Mr. Smollett gave them detailed instructions on where and how to gently attack him.
“You attacked Jussie because you wanted to scare him into hiring you as security,” said Mr. Smollett’s attorney Shay Allen, “so you could go back to LA and make $ 5,000 a week, right?”
“No sir,” replied Abimbola Osundairo.
During the cross-examination, the brothers, both aspiring actors and fitness enthusiasts, contested this and other defense disputes over the attack. During the 11-hour testimony of tiny details like Mr Smollett’s grocery list and training schedule, they told the court that Mr Smollett had instructed them to yell at him with racist and homophobic slurs – and to say, “That is MAGA country ”. “- during the attack.
During one of the brothers’ testimony, the defense filed a wrong trial, suggesting that the judge had pronounced wrongly during the trial, and later asked the judge to acquit Mr. Smollett. But Judge James Linn ruled against Mr Smollett in both cases.
Thursday was a pivotal day in the trial as prosecutors, whose case depends heavily on the brothers’ credibility, rested after each brother fully told the jury that Mr Smollett knowingly produced a false police report about the attack.
Abimbola Osundairo, 28, testified Wednesday that gay Smollett came up with the plan because he was disappointed in the television studio’s muffled response to a death threat received days earlier.
Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo both play supporting roles on the television show “Empire”, in which Mr. Smollett starred. Abimbola Osundairo said he agreed to take part in the joke because he felt “grateful” to Mr Smollett for securing him an alternate role on the show, while Olabinjo Osundairo said he agreed as an aspiring actor because he wanted to “ingratiate himself” with Mr. Smollett.
Defense efforts to undermine the brothers’ credibility included questions about weapons and drugs found in Abimbola Osundairo’s house and allegations that Olabinjo Osundairo had made homophobic comments in the past.
Olabinjo Osundairo is not allowed to own a weapon as he was convicted of aggravated assault a few years ago. But a detective testified earlier this week that the weapons were all Abimbola Osundairos and were legally owned and described the amount of cocaine discovered as “very small”.
One of Mr Smollett’s lawyers, Tamara Walker, also cited discrepancies between Olabinjo Osundairo’s testimony and what he had said to the grand jury on the case. For example, he told the grand jury that he chose to pour bleach on Mr Smollett instead of gasoline because he wanted to avoid being seen filling a gas canister with a security camera. However, he testified in court on Thursday that he chose bleach because he thought it would be safer for Mr Smollett.
The brothers remained on the witness stand during their sessions, even though they were questioned about several written conversations Olabinjo Osundairo had had in which he made statements the defense described as homophobic.
Olabinjo Osundairo, 30, denied any bias, explaining the comments as mistakes he made because he was angry and claiming that he “did not hate anyone”. The day before, prosecutors had shown the jury a photo of the brothers at the 2015 Chicago Pride Parade, disguised as Trojan warriors for a car that revolved around the condom brand of the same name.
The malpractice motion arose from this issue when Judge Linn once described Ms. Walker’s questions about Mr. Osundairo’s earlier comments as “very minor matters.” She unsuccessfully argued that the judge’s remark discredited some of the defense arguments before the jury.
A third lawyer for Mr. Smollett, Heather Widell, accused Judge Linn of making “growl faces” during the defense interrogation. The judge disagreed with Ms. Widell’s characterization and pointed to her own “smile and frown”.
“There is no wrong trial here,” said Judge Linn. “To be honest, I am stunned that you are considering a wrongful process based on this little conversation.”
Earlier in the day, Olabinjo Osundairo testified that during the January 29, 2019 attack, while his brother and Mr Smollett were on the ground, he put a noose around Mr Smollett’s face and made sure he poured the bleach on Mr Smollett . Smollett’s clothes, not his skin, so as not to seriously injure him.
Understand the Jussie Smollett Trial
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Others involved. Two brothers, Abimbola Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo, told police that Smollett, who is black and gay, paid them $ 3,500 to orchestrate the attack and instructed them to shout racist and homophobic nicknames and a noose around his neck to lay.
The proof. A text message between Smollett and Abimsola Osundairo sent four days before the attack has become an important piece of evidence. In it, Smollett talked about needing help and meeting “on the plane”. The footage from the surveillance camera shows Mr Smollett’s black Mercedes pulling up an alley behind one of the brothers’ houses that afternoon.
Fees dropped. One month after the attack, the Cook County State Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against Mr. Smollett. The office had agreed to a plan whereby Mr. Smollett would do community service and forfeit the $ 10,000 bail paid for his release in exchange for the office dropping the charges without admission of guilt.
The case is revived. A judge later ordered a special attorney to review how the Cook County State Attorney’s Office handled the case. On February 11, 2020, Special Prosecutor Dan K. Webb announced that a grand jury had revived the case with a new indictment and criticized the earlier decision to drop the case.
The attack, which was first reported by Mr. Smollett’s adviser, led to an extensive investigation by Chicago police who targeted the brothers with surveillance footage from that night. They arrested the brothers at the airport when they were returning from a trip to Nigeria.
The brothers were detained and released by police for about two days after telling investigators that it was Mr. Smollett who orchestrated the attack, giving them details of when and where to approach him, and even had staged a “test run”.
When interviewing the brothers, the special investigator in the case, Daniel K. Webb, said how unlikely the brothers would have decided to attempt an attack on Mr Smollett around 2 a.m. on a cold night near his home, without receiving some instructions from him.
“If you didn’t have an advanced knowledge of Mr. Smollett, there was no way you would know that he would be in this location,” said Mr. Webb. Abimbola Osundairo agreed. (He described that night as “colder than penguins’ feet”.)
The defense argued that the brothers were able to determine the whereabouts of Mr Smollett by checking his Instagram account while he posted updates with his location.
Defense called Brandon Moore, Mr. Smollett’s former music manager, who was on the phone when the attack took place. Mr. Moore said he heard the insults that continued the attack and then Mr. Smollett said he dropped the phone.
Dr. Robert Turelli, the doctor who treated Mr Smollett in the hospital the night of the attack, was shown photos of the bruises on Mr Smollett’s face and confirmed the injuries were real. CT scans showed that Mr. Smollett “had no traumatic injuries and no injuries that required immediate intervention,” said Dr. Turelli.
Pam Sharp, former Mr. Smollett publicist, who said Mr. Smollett “didn’t like the camera on him” outside of his acting job.
Judge Linn said there will be no trial on Friday and that it will resume on Monday.