Jussie Smollett case: Second Osundairo brother testifies actor paid for staged attack
A second man testified Thursday that Jussie Smollett plotted a racist and antigay attack on himself and paid the man and his brother to carry it out, giving them lines to shout and pointing out a surveillance camera that the former “Empire” actor said would capture the hoax on video to use for publicity.
Olabinjo Osundairo’s testimony at Smollett’s trial in Chicago echoed the account that his brother, Abimbola Osundairo, gave on the witness stand Wednesday, including that Smollett wanted the brothers to douse him with gasoline and put a noose around his neck, and that Smollett gave them a $100 bill to buy the supplies and paid them with a $3,500 check.
Olabinjo Osundairo said Smollett told him that he’d received hate mail at the TV studio in Chicago “and he had this crazy idea of having two MAGA supporters attack him,” a reference to then-President Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” Osundairo believed the plan was to publicize the attack on social media, not to involve police, he said.
Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was found guilty on five of six counts after staging an attack on himself in 2019. This Q&A explains how we got here.
“He wanted me to put the noose round his neck and pour the bleach on him,” Osundairo said. They opted for bleach, Osundairo said, because he wasn’t comfortable using gasoline. He said that Smollett wanted his brother to do the punching and that it should look like a struggle and appear that the actor had fought back.
Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack on Jan. 29, 2019 — one count for each time he gave a report to different officers. The Class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said that if Smollett is convicted, he likely would be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.
Earlier Thursday, Smollett’s lawyer worked to discredit the brothers’ accounts, suggesting that they attacked Smollett because they didn’t like him and that they then tried to get him to pay them each $1 million not to testify that he staged the assault.
Defense attorney Shay Allen suggested the brothers were motivated to accuse Smollett of staging the hoax because of their dislike of the performer — who is gay and Black — and then saw an opportunity to make money.
He asked Abimbola Osundairo, who worked as a stand-in on the Chicago set of “Empire,” if he tried to get a $5,000-per-week job as Smollett’s security and if after he was questioned by police and released he told Smollett that he and his brother wouldn’t testify at his trial if they were each paid $1 million. Osundairo responded “No sir” to both.
Allen also questioned why Smollett would ask Osundairo and his brother to wait around for him outside at 2 a.m. in January, when temperatures were well below freezing, and why they would do so.
“You really wanted to carry out this attack,” Allen said.
“This fake attack,” Osundairo quickly responded.
In follow-up questioning by prosecutor Dan Webb, Osundairo said he never thought Smollett would go to the police to report the fake attack as a real hate crime. He said Smollett told him that he wanted to use it to generate media attention and that he had never lied to Chicago police.
Actor Jussie Smollett told Chicago police in January that two men attacked him near his apartment building in Streeterville, slipping a noose around his neck and yelling racial and homophobic slurs.
Smollett’s legal team needs to cast doubt on the brothers’ damaging testimony, but it isn’t easy. Abimbola Osundairo stuck with his story during cross-examination while also denying that he had a sexual relationship with Smollett or had asked the actor to hire him. And much of what the Osundairos have told jurors about that night appears to be corroborated by video and other evidence.
Smollett’s legal team is expected to ask Olabinjo Osundairo on cross-examination about his previous felony conviction, which he testified Thursday was in 2012, for aggravated battery. As a convicted felon, he could not legally possess a firearm, but police found several guns when they searched the brothers’ home after the alleged attack. Abimbola Osundairo said that the guns belonged to him and that Olabinjo Osundairo didn’t live there, but defense attorneys questioned that. They say the brothers made up a lie about Smollett staging the attack to get out of trouble for possessing the firearms and heroin that was also found in the home.
Abimbola Osundairo, an aspiring actor who worked with Smollett on the Chicago set of “Empire,” said he and his brother agreed to their roles in the fake attack because he felt indebted to Smollett for helping him with his acting career. Olabinjo Osundairo said he didn’t know they were going to be paid for the fake attack, and said he wouldn’t have participated if he had known Smollett would involve the police.
The morning after they carried out the hoax, as news broke of a hate crime against Smollett, Abimbola Osundairo said he texted a note of condolence to Smollett, also as instructed. It read: “Bruh, say it ain’t true. I’m praying for speedy recovery.”
Defense attorney Nenye Uche has said the brothers attacked Smollett “because of who he is” and has suggested that the brothers were homophobic.
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