Jussie Smollett lawyers argue over motive at end of testimony

Testimony in the trial as to whether Jussie Smollett lied to police about being the victim of a hate crime ended on Tuesday after the actor was questioned closely by the prosecution about his interactions with abusers shortly before the assault.

Deliberations on the case are set to begin on Wednesday after oral argument and six days of testimony in which two brothers said Mr Smollett organized the attack as a publicity stunt and the actor called them outright liars.

On Tuesday, Mr Smollett dismissed accusations that he had planned the assault with the brothers, Abimbola Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo, in the days and hours leading up to the 2019 attack, calling their meetings harmless.

In a meeting two days before the assault, he said, he and Abimbola Osundairo had simply smoked marijuana while Mr. Smollett drove the brothers around Chicago before a scheduled workout. He had hired Abimbola Osundairo to help him “get ripped off” for a music video, he said.

“Nothing strange or bad was going on,” Mr Smollett said of his walk with the brothers.

But the prosecution disputed his account, asking him on Tuesday why their car had continued to circle the area where the attack occurred later.

Likewise, Daniel K. Webb, the special prosecutor in the case, asked Mr. Smollett why he continued to inform Abimbola Osundairo of the delays in his flight back to Chicago late on the night of January 28, 2019, shortly before. the attack took place.

The brothers testified that Mr. Smollett was keeping them apprised of the delay so that they could set back the time of their pre-arranged attack on him, which occurred around 2 a.m.

Mr. Smollett testified that in fact he only kept Abimbola Osundairo informed because they had planned to train.

Mr Webb noted, however, that there had been no text or follow-up emails canceling the training, which was scheduled for the morning of January 29, after the attack. He asked Mr. Smollet if Abimbola Osundairo had shown up for the meeting that morning.

“I say I don’t know,” replied Mr. Smollett.

Mr Smollett also said that on the night of the attack he posted updates about his theft to his Instagram followers and that Abimbola Osundairo was not the only person to message him directly about it , suggesting that the messages did not indicate that they coordinated the attack.

The back-and-forths often escalated and Mr. Smollett got angry at times, leading Judge James Linn to urge him to answer the prosecutor’s questions directly.

In testimony earlier in the week, the brothers described how Mr. Smollett detailed the planned attack after expressing his disappointment that the producers of the television show he starred in, “Empire”, did did not respond more seriously to a death threat he had received. received by post.

An employee of the show disputed this claim on Monday, saying the show had in fact offered to obtain security to drive Mr. Smollett to his home from the studio, but the actor had refused.

Mr Smollett, 39, has pleaded not guilty to several counts of disorderly conduct related to his reporting the attack as a hate crime due to racist and homophobic slurs by his attackers. His lawyers argued that the Osundairo brothers attacked him because they wanted to scare him into hiring them as a security guard. Mr Smollett said on Monday that Abimbola Osundairo had persistently requested to be his bodyguard, including after receiving the threatening letter.

Prosecutors claimed the brothers only beat Mr. Smollett enough to bruise him without seriously injuring him and that they placed a rope around his neck, shaped like a noose, to make it appear as if ‘he had been the victim of a hate crime. Mr Smollett returned to that account on Tuesday, suggesting his injuries were indeed severe enough that to date he has a scar under his right eye that will not go away.

Much of Mr. Webb’s questions focused on the events of January 27, when the Osundairo brothers said Mr. Smollett took them through the “run”, leading them to an intersection near his apartment building. and indicating where he wanted the attack to occur. .

Mr Smollett testified that that day he went to pick up Abimbola Osundairo for a training session, and when Olabinjo Osundairo inexplicably joined him at the pickup point, Mr Smollett said he used an interview upcoming TV show as an excuse to cancel the exercise and bring the brothers home.

Mr Smollett had said that Olabinjo Osundairo “freaked me out” in previous testimony and that he didn’t like training with other people present.

But when Mr. Webb wanted to know why he had driven in his own neighborhood for 10 or 15 minutes before bringing the brothers home, Mr. Smollett replied, “I don’t know. It was three years ago.

Mr Webb pointed out that surveillance footage showed Mr Smollett’s car circling the intersection where the attack had occurred on three occasions within minutes.

The prosecution also raised what police say was an inconsistency in Mr Smollett’s story: in his first two interviews with police, he described one of his attackers as white, but then changed that to say that he had pale skin. Mr Smollett testified that he assumed the assailant was white due to the racist slurs he used and the fact that he said “This is MAGA country”, referring to the campaign slogan of former President Donald J. Trump.

“Sir, do you think that pretending this person was white would lend more credibility to a bogus hate crime?” Mr. Webb asked.

“You would have to ask someone who has committed a false crime,” Mr. Smollett said.

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