Man testifies that Jussie Smollett paid him to "fake beat him up"
This story originally appeared on CBS Chicago.
One of the two brothers who claim actor Jussie Smollett paid them to pull off a fake attack took the stand on Wednesday. Smollett, 39, faces six counts of disorderly conduct and is accused of lying to police about the 2019 incident.
Smollett, who is Black and openly gay, told Chicago police that he was attacked by two masked men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs in January 2019, authorities said. Smollett claimed the men put a noose around his neck and poured a chemical on him. But prosecutors say Smollett orchestrated the incident and paid two men $3,500 to stage the attack, which he denies.
Abel Osundairo, one of the brothers, spoke about his own acting career and said he worked as an extra for Spike Lee's 2015 film "Chi-Raq" and regularly appeared as an extra on Smollett's former show "Empire."
"We became very good friends," Osundairo said of Smollett. "I would call him my brother."
Osundairo testified that Smollett wanted him to "fake beat him up" and claimed there was a discussion of who would punch Smollett. "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.
When prosecutors asked Osundairo why he would agree to go through with the plan, Osundairo said he felt like he owed Smollett. "I agreed to do it, most importantly, because I felt indebted to Jussie," he said. "He also got me a stand-in role on 'Empire,' and I believed he could further my acting career."
Osundairo and his brother Ola were initially detained and suspected of carrying out the attack. But Smollett eventually went from an alleged victim to a suspect. The brothers told investigators that Smollett gave them the money to buy the ski masks, rope and red hats to appear like supporters of former 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, Kimberly Murray, a Chicago police detective, took the stand. Smollett is accused of lying to her when he reported the incident.
Murray said Smollett's injuries were minor and testified that he refused to turn over cell phone records after reporting he'd received a threatening phone call before the alleged attack. She also said Smollett declined to turn over medical records related to his injuries and declined a cheek swab in an effort to pick up DNA on the rope that was tied around his neck.
On Monday, Smollett's defense team insisted he was the victim of an attack perpetrated by the brothers and claimed police made a "rush to judgment" in accusing Smollett of lying.
Detective Michael Theis, a lead investigator in the case, disputed this, saying more than 20 officers investigated the crime Smollett reported for over 3,000 hours. He said they reviewed more than 1,500 hours of surveillance video. "The mayor on down — everybody wanted answers," he said. "They wanted to know what happened."
Theis said investigators spent days trying to determine if the brothers were telling the truth about the incident being a hoax. "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.
It's unclear if Smollett will take the stand in his defense.
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