Jussie Smollett, dissatisfied with what he perceived to be a lack of response to a death threat he had received in the mail, solicited the help of a friend in 2019 to organise a bogus assault that would get public attention, according to a buddy who testified on Wednesday at Jussie Smollett’s trial.
In an interview with TMZ, Abimbola Osundairo, the younger of the two brothers who have claimed they were involved in what they have described as a hoax, said he got the bizarre request after Mr. Smollett showed him a picture of a threatening letter he said had been sent to him. An image of a red stick figure hanging from a noose with a rifle aimed at the figure was shown, as well as the abbreviation MAGA.
Afterwards, Mr. Smollett scheduled a meeting with him, according to Mr. Osundairo, after sending him a text message in which Mr. Smollett said that he required “on the low” assistance. At the meeting, they addressed how the television studio behind “Empire,” the programme on which they both worked, was not taking their letter seriously, Mr. Osundairo said to the court in his testimony.
He testified on the third day of Mr. Smollett’s trial on charges that he filed a false police report about the attack. The prosecution’s case against Mr. Smollett is based largely on the accounts of Mr. Osundairo and his brother, Olabinjo Osundairo, who allege that Mr. Smollett planned the attack with his brother.
Mr. Smollett has said that he did not stage the incident on Jan. 29, and his attorneys have argued that the brothers made up the storey to escape punishment.
In an interview with The New Times, Mr. Osundairo, 28, described his bond with Mr. Smollett, which began in 2017 and developed to the point where Mr. Osundairo would refer to Mr. Smollett as his “big brother.” Mr. Osundairo said that Mr. Smollett assisted him in obtaining a position as a stand-in for more famous performers on “Empire,” a gesture that Mr. Osundairo claimed left him feeling “indebted” to Mr. Smollett. Mr. Smollett has denied the allegations. He said that he had ended up playing the love interest for Mr. Smollett’s character on the programme as a result of the arrangement.
Whether the prosecution would also call Mr. Osundairo’s elder brother, Olabinjo, 30, who also acted on “Empire” and, while he was not as close to Mr. Smollett, has told detectives he was called in to help with the assault, is unknown. Olabinjo Osundairo is on a list of people who might be called as witnesses.
Mr. Smollett drove the brothers around the Streeterville neighbourhood of Chicago, where he lived, the day before the attack was supposed to take place, according to the brothers’ statements to the police. Mr. Smollett showed them the locations where he wanted the attack to take place, according to the brothers. Mr. Smollett, according to the brothers, handed them a $100 cash to use to purchase goods for the assault, which included ski masks, a rope, and a red hat, all of which were intended to show that the assailants were fans of former President Donald J. Trump.
According to the special prosecutor in charge of the case, Daniel K. Webb, the brothers waited for Mr. Smollett near the proposed location on Jan. 29, in subzero temperatures, and when the actor arrived, they lightly beat him, tied a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him from a hot sauce bottle, according to testimony earlier in the trial. According to Abimbola Osundairo, the two brothers fled as a vehicle arrived and then called a taxi to take them back to their residence.
The defence, which had not yet begun its questioning of Mr. Osundairo on Wednesday, has attempted to discredit the brothers’ stories in their opening statement and cross-examination, according to the court record. “Self-confessed assailants,” Mr. Smollett’s primary attorney, Nenye Uche, referred to the brothers as “self-hating thugs,” and claimed both guys “didn’t like” Mr. Smollett.
On Wednesday, two more Chicago police officers testified. One of them, Kimberly Murray, claimed that she had interviewed Mr. Smollett in the hospital a few hours after the attack and that he had told her that he had been walking toward the lobby of his apartment building while talking on the phone to his agent when he heard one of his attackers yell racist and homophobic slurs at him as he walked toward the lobby.
She testified that Mr. Smollett had informed her that he had been punched in the left side of the face and kicked in the back and ribs; he also claimed that he had felt a yank around his neck before the assailants ran away from the scene. In his statement, the actor said that when he was leaving the scene, there was a rope “fastened like a noose” around his neck and that when he went to his apartment, he realised that his sweatshirt smelled like bleach.
Mr. Smollett had refused to supply investigators with his cellphone, medical documents, and a saliva sample, according to the cops who testified in court. Detective Graves stated that the police had requested access to Mr. Smollett’s phone in order to help establish a timeline and to investigate a threatening anonymous call that Mr. Smollett claimed he had received two days earlier, but that Mr. Smollett had refused to grant them access because he believed it would compromise his safety.
Mr. Smollett’s lawyer, Mr. Uche, said during the defense’s cross-examination of Detective Graves that Mr. Smollett did not want to reveal his private information with the police because he was a celebrity.