Jussie Smollett Trial: Abel Osundairo, One Of Two Brothers Who Said He Was Paid To Help Stage Attack, Says Smollett 'Wanted Me To Fake Beat Him Up'
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Abel Osundairo, one of the Chicago brothers who said he was paid to pull off a fake attack against Jussie Smollett, took the stand in Smollett's trial Wednesday as a star witness.
Smollett faces six counts of disorderly conduct, accused of lying to Chicago police when he claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in January 2019.
Smollett, who is Black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home on Lower North Water Street around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him. Police and prosecutors have said Smollett orchestrated it himself, paying Osundairo and his brother $3,500 to help stage the attack.
CBS 2's Charlie De Mar spoke exclusively to Osundairo before he testified.
Osundairo was an extra on the show "Empire" on which Smollett worked, and said he considered Smollett a close friend and even helped him get in shape for a music video. But ultimately, Osundairo said he was paid to stage an attack in January 2019.
As he entered the courthouse on Wednesday, Abel Osundairo said he is ready to tell the truth when he eventually takes the stand.
"I'm ready to do what I got to do. Tell the truth, not my truth," he said.
De Mar asked Osundairo if he was nervous.
"No," he said. "When you got the truth on your side, you don't have to be nervous."
Upon taking the stand, Osundairo talked with the jury about his own acting career. He had worked as an extra in Spike Lee's "Chi-raq," and then regularly appeared as an extra on "Empire."
"We became very good friends," Osundairo testified. "I would call him my brother."
Osundairo said he did not actually meet Smollett on set, but rather they were introduced through a mutual friend. He said hung out at Smollett's apartment.
"We would go to the club. We would go to the strip club. I've been to a concert of his and we would go to a bathhouse," Osundairo said.
Police claimed that Smollett paid Osundairo and his brother, Ola, $3,500 to stage the attack. The defense has claimed the $3,500 check Smollett gave the brothers was really for nutrition and training.
Asked about that, Osundairo said he would only charge $50 to $80 for meal plans and $30 to $50 for exercise plans for various clients. But he said that he didn't plan on charging Smollett for training and nutrition advice because Smollett was a good friend – and when they would go out together, Smollett would always pick up the tab.
When asked about the alleged fake attack, Osundairo said, "He explained that he wanted me to fake beat him up."
When prosecutors asked Osundairo why he would agree to go through with the plan, Osundairo said: "I agreed to do it most importantly because I felt indebted to Jussie. He also got me a stand in role on 'Empire,' and I believed he could further my acting career."
Osundairo said there was discussion as to who was going to do the punching. He said Smollett wanted him to do it because Smollett didn't trust brother Ola to "pull" his punches.
"I believe he said there was going to be a camera to capture the fake attack—that he wanted a camera to capture the fake attack," Osundairo said.
Osundairo testified that Smollett wanted to use the fake attack footage for media. He also testified that Smollett wanted Osundairo to send a condolence letter after the attack to show that he wasn't part of it.
Osundairo said he would have gone through with plan even if he had not gotten paid, because he looked at Smollett as a brother.
Smollett said his attackers doused him in bleach and draped a rope resembling a noose around his neck. Abel and Ola Osundairo were initially detained – suspected of carrying out the attack on Smollett.
But in a turn of events, Smollett went from victim to suspect – charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for staging the attack and lying to police.
The brothers told investigators that Smollett gave them the money to buy the ski masks, rope, and red hats to appear like supporters of President Donald Trump.
Police said Smollett orchestrated the plan because of an anonymous hate-filled letter sent to the studio where "Empire" was filmed – and said Smollett did not think the threat was taken seriously.
Earlier Wednesday, Chicago Police Detective Kimberly Murray took the stand. Smollett is accused of lying to her when she took a report of his is attack.
Murray described Smollett's injuries as minor, adding that he refused to turn over cell phone records after reporting he'd received a threatening phone call before the attack, in which the caller said, "Hey you little f*****t," even though police said his phone records would be helpful in figuring out who made the call, and establish a timeline of events.
She also said Smollett declined to turn over medical records she wanted to document the injuries he suffered. She also asked Smollett for a cheek swab to try and pick up any DNA on the rope that was tied around his neck during the attack, but he declined that as well.
Court was dismissed for the night around 7 p.m.
During opening statements on Monday, Smollett's defense attorney insisted he really was the victim of an attack perpetrated by the Osundairo brothers, and claimed police made a "rush to judgment" in accusing Smollett of orchestrating a hoax.
But Chicago Police Detective Michael Theis, a lead investigator in the case who was the first person called to the witness stand in Smollett's trial on Tuesday, disputed there was any rush to judgment in the case.
Theis walked the jury through exactly how Smollett went from victim to suspect. He said 24 to 26 officers were dedicated to solving the crime Smollett reported, working at it for more than 3,000 hours combined, and reviewing at least 1,500 hours of surveillance video.
"This was horrible. The crime was a hate crime. There was a noose. There was bleach," Detective Theis testified. "The mayor on down - everybody wanted answers. They wanted to know what happened."
Police were looking for two men seen in a grainy video as the possible suspects, but detectives did not know who those men were. Then came a major break in the case. Brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo were identified from a rideshare video they took the night of the attack.
Smollett went on national TV and said he was positive the men in the surveillance video were his attackers. Detectives thought they had solved the case.
Once in custody, the brothers told investigators it was all a hoax. Police then spent days trying to determine if the brothers' story added up.
"At the end of the investigation, we determined the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event - and the hate crime did not occur," Theis said.
Smollett's pastor, the Rev. Damon Mack, said outside the courtroom Wednesday that he is still holding onto faith that the jury will find him innocent.
"The Jussie I know is not the Jussie that seems to have been presented to us," Mack said.
Abel Osundairo was expected to go on testifying into the evening Wednesday. Ola Osundairo is also expected to testify.
The question remains as to whether Smollett himself will take the stand.
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