CHICAGO (AP) – State on Thursday closed its case in Jussie Smollett’s trial after key testimony from two brothers who said the former ‘Empire’ actor plotted a racist and anti-gay attack on him – even in downtown Chicago and had paid them to carry it out.
After three days of presenting evidence, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told the presiding judge on Thursday evening that the prosecution was over. The defense immediately started their case, calling, among other things, an emergency doctor who saw Smollett after the alleged attack.
Judge James Linn told jurors there would be no testimony on Friday, saying he expected them to begin deliberations no later than Tuesday.
The doctor, Dr Robert Turelli, testified that he treated Smollett after going to the hospital early on January 29, 2019, telling Turelli he was attacked, punched and kicked. Turelli said Smollett had bruises and scratches, but no serious injuries.
Before the state took a rest on Thursday, Smollett’s lawyer worked to discredit the brothers’ accounts, suggesting they attacked Smollett because they didn’t like him, and tried to get him to pay $ 1million. dollars each not to testify that he had organized the assault.
Defense attorney Shay Allen suggested the brothers were motivated to accuse Smollett of setting up the hoax because they didn’t like the artist – who is gay and black – and then saw an opportunity to win money.
Olabingo Osundairo’s testimony echoed the account his brother, Abimbola Osundairo, had given on the witness stand a day earlier, including that Smollett wanted the brothers to spray him with gasoline and tie him in a noose, and that Smollett gave them a $ 100 bill to buy the supplies and paid them with a check for $ 3,500.
Olabingo Osundairo said Smollett told him he received hate messages at the Chicago TV studio “and he had this crazy idea of ââbeing attacked by two MAGA supporters,” an apparent reference to the president’s slogan Donald Trump “Make America Great Again”. Osundairo believed the plan was to publicize the attack on social media, not to involve the police, he said.
They chose to pour bleach on Smollett, Osundairo said, because he was uncomfortable with gasoline. He said Smollett wanted his brother to do the punch and he should look like he’s fighting back.
Osundairo also addressed the defense claim that the brothers were motivated by homophobia. He said he had nothing against gays and the jury was shown a photo of siblings participating in the Chicago gay pride parade in 2015 dressed as Trojan warriors.
Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for doing what prosecutors called a false police report into the alleged attack on January 29, 2019 – one count for every time he made a report – to three different officers. The Class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is found guilty he will likely be placed on probation and ordered to do community service.
Olabingo Osundairo also denied that a white person was involved, or that he and his brother even wore face masks or makeup to make it look like they were white. In statements which have been widely ridiculed because the brothers are black, Smollett had said he saw the pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.
During cross-examination, Allen asked Abimbola Osundairo, who worked as a backup on the set of “Empire” in Chicago, if he had tried to get a $ 5,000 a week job for the safety of Smollett and so after being questioned by the police and released he told Smollett that he and his brother would not testify at his trial if they each received $ 1 million. Osundairo replied “No sir” to both.
During follow-up questioning by Webb, Osundairo said he never thought Smollett would go to the police to report the fake attack as a true hate crime. He said Smollett told him he wanted to use it to gain media attention and that he had never lied to the Chicago police.
Olabingo Osundairo told jurors he spoke to police without a promise of immunity or as part of any favorable deal. He added: “It was just to get the truth about what happened that night.”
Smollett’s legal team must question the brothers’ damaging testimony, but it’s not easy. Abimbola Osundairo stayed true to her story during cross-examination, while denying that she had sex with Smollett or asked the actor to hire him. And much of what the Osundairos told jurors about that night appears to be corroborated by videos and other evidence.
Smollett’s legal team questioned Olabingo Osundairo about a previous felony conviction, which he testified to in 2012, for aggravated assault and battery. As a convicted felon, he cannot legally own a gun, but police found several guns during the search of his home after the alleged attack. Both brothers said the weapons belonged to Abimbola Osundairo.
The defense said the brothers lied that Smollett organized the attack to avoid trouble for possession of guns and heroin which were also found in the house.
Abimbola Osundairo, an aspiring actor, said he and his brother accepted their roles in the fake attack because he felt indebted to Smollett for helping him in his acting career.
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Associated Press writer Michael Tarm contributed to this report.
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