Empire star Jussie Smollett took the witness stand in Chicago federal court on Monday.
According to Rolling Stone, Smollett continued to deny that he planned “a hoax” with the Osundairo brothers, the prosecution’s star witnesses. Last week, the brothers testified they were paid $3,600 and instructed by the actor to carry out the alleged racist and homophobic attack back in 2019.
“No, there was no hoax,” Smollett maintained over nearly four hours of testimony.
He then went on to detail his relationship to the Osundairo brothers, recounting how he met Abimbola Osundairo at a club in 2017. They allegedly did drugs in the bathroom that same night and continued to hang out together, sometimes smoking weed in the actor’s Mercedes and making out on occasion, Smollett’s attorney Nenye Uche established. Smollett would later find out Ambimbola was working as an extra on Empire and meet his brother Olabingo, whom he claimed “never liked him.”
In addressing the $3,500 he allegedly paid to Abimbola, Smollett explained that it was for “training sessions and nutrition plans” for an upcoming music video shoot—not to stage an attack.
Rolling Stone has more:
Smollett testified that because of their friendship and Abimbola’s proximity to his life, Smollett asked his friend to help him to get in shape for an upcoming music video– what was supposed to be an all-male version of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”– and that the $3,500 payment was for training sessions and nutrition plans. Defense attorneys called up Smollett’s former payments to trainers, with the actor stating that in the entertainment industry it’s normal to shell out thousands of dollars on private fitness. Smollett said this was also the source of illusive text messages and private meetings between the two friends; Abimbola had told the actor he could get him an “herbal steroid” for weight loss that was illegal in the United States, but legal in Nigeria – where the two brothers planned to soon visit.
Smollett then went on to play back the events of that attack in January 2019, maintaining his initial story that he was walking home from a Subway in Chicago in the wee hours of the morning when he heard racial and homophobic slurs hurled at him from behind before he was assaulted by one man and kicked while on the ground by another.
“I would like to think I landed a punch. But I don’t know if it landed,” Smollett told the court.
He went on to say that upon entering his apartment, friend and creative director Frank Gatson encouraged him to involve the police even though he didn’t want to initially.
“There are a few reasons I didn’t call the police,” Smollett explained. “First, I am a Black man in America, I do not trust the police. I am also a well known figure and I am an openly gay man; I am an actor, I want to play a boxer, I want to play Superman, but the moment I got beat I became a f*ggot who got his ass beat.”
Prosecutors have alleged that the Empire star staged the attack in response to producers’ mishandling of an instance of hate mail he received at the studio. However, during testimony from one of the show’s producers Brett Mahoney on Monday, Mahoney told the court that the letter was turned over to authorities and that Smollett agreed to have extra security around him in the aftermath.
Additionally, per the AP, security guard Anthony Moore also testified on Monday, where he explained that he saw someone on the ground at the end of the block at the time of the attack and two men running away, one of whom was white. However, upon further questioning by a Chicago special prosecutor, he was “pressured to change his story” and ultimately signed a statement that said one of the assailants was “possibly a Black man.”
Jurors are expected to hear the remainder of Smollett’s cross examination and closing arguments from both sides on Tuesday, though there’s a possibility that it could spill over into Wednesday.
Smollett currently faces six federal counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to the police about the attack. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.