Jussie Smollett, the former “Empire” actor, took the stand on Monday in his disorderly conduct trial, telling jurors his side of the alleged 2019 attack that he’s been accused of faking for attention. Smollett and his team have insisted that the attack, in which he was allegedly beaten by two men and had a noose put around his neck, was real.
Smollett has said that he was attacked while walking home late at night on January 29, 2019, in Chicago. The actor, who is Black and gay, said two men yelled “racist and homophobic slurs,” dumped an “unknown chemical substance” on him and put a noose around his neck.
But in the, police and prosecutors accused Smollett of paying two brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, $3,500 to help him stage the attack. Abel that Smollett wanted him to “fake beat him up,” and said he went along with the plan because Smollett had been helping him with his acting career, according to CBS Chicago. Ola also claimed that Smollett asked them to stage a fake attack.
Smollett is currently facing six felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about the crime. Each count carries a sentence of up to three years.
During his Monday testimony, Smollett said he first met Abel at a club while filming the fourth season of “Empire,” according to CBS Chicago. He said the pair did drugs together and eventually kissed in a bathhouse. Abel denied having any kind of romantic relationship with Smollett earlier in the trial, CBS Chicago reported.
Smollett also told the court that he regularly drove with Abel and smoked weed, in what may have been an attempt to explain why Smollett’s car was seen on camera picking Abel up and taking him to the scene of the alleged attack on a different day, CBS Chicago said. Prosecutors have suggested Smollett was conducting a “dry run” of the crime at the time.
Smollett also said he had a much tenser relationship with Ola, who he said, “didn’t like me or he wasn’t feeling me.” Attorneys for Smollett have argued the brothers attacked their client because Ola was homophobic, CBS Chicago said.
Smollett said the $3,500 he gave the brothers was for help with physical training and meal plans, telling jurors that he needed to lose 30 pounds for a scene in “Empire,” the station reported. He also said Abel told him he could get him an illegal nutritional supplement from Nigeria, explaining a text between the pair days before the alleged attack in which Smollett told Abel to “meet on the low.”
When describing the January 29 attack at trial, Smollett said, “It felt like something out of Looney Tunes adventures,” CBS Chicago reported.
“It felt like someone massive coming up to me. Not enough time to think,” Smollett said. “This person felt significantly larger than me. Dressed in dark clothes. A ski mask.”
When asked why he didn’t call police immediately after the attack, Smollett said, “I’m a Black man in America. I don’t trust police.”
Smollett’s attorneys arguedthat police made a “rush to judgment” when accusing him of staging a hoax attack. But Chicago Police Detective Michael Theis testified that police spent more than 3,000 combined hours investigating Smollett’s report, and said Smollett had not cooperated with some of the investigation.