Jussie Smollett told a Chicago courtroom today that he was not only a victim of an attack on the streets of Chicago nearly three years ago, but a potential shakedown too.
On the stand for the second day in the nearly weeklong trial, the ex-Empire actor reignited a $2 million bombshell accusation against Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo.
The brothers are the prosecution’s primary witnesses that the January 29, 2019 attack on Smollett wasn’t a hate crime but a set-up by the star himself. Right near the end of his long stint on the stand, Smollett declared the brothers sought $1 million each to “go away” and tell authorities that the assault wasn’t faked.
Held by Chicago Police investigators for nearly two days back in early 2019, in the final hour before they were to be released or charged, the brothers broke down and told the cops that Smollett paid them to rough him up that cold Windy City morning. A check for $3,500 for Smollett, surveillance footage of the brothers buying rope and more supplies, contradictory statements and a timeline of texts and others interactions between the Osundairos and the actor have laid the foundation for the prosecution’s case.
This is far from the first time the supposed shakedown has been mentioned in the Smollett case. It came up in previous litigation and was denied on the stand by Abimbola Osundairo last week.
However, today was the first time Smollett has made the accusation directly – a clear move to impact the jury.
As Smollett also noted Tuesday, the money was never paid.
Delayed for well over a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the trial started on November 29. As the initial dismissal of the case came under scrutiny, new charges were laid in February 2019 and Smollett entered a not-guilty plea a month later. Ex-Iran Contra lawyer Daniel Webb was appointed to the case by a federal judge in August 2019 and indicted the actor on new charges, including lying to the police, soon afterwards
Telling his side of the attack story publicly for the first time this week in his own defense, Smollett’s move to mention the multi-million-dollar payoff was seen as so serious that special prosecutor Webb tried immediately to have it stricken from the record. Cook County Judge James Linn denied the request, but he did make a point of mentioning that he was under the impression Smollett was contacted directly by the Osundairo brothers for the money.
On Tuesday, under re-direct questioning from defense lawyer Nenye Uche, Smollett said it was the brother’s “lawyer or agent or agency” who “communicated” to his legal representatives for the cash.
Facing half a dozen felony charges arising out of the alleged attack and the aftermath as the spotlight turned on Smollett in a very bad way, the actor who played Jamal Lyon on the Lee Daniels and Danny Strong created primetime soap for five seasons could be sentenced up three years behind bars if found guilty. Even with all the outrage the case has caused among politicians, police and prosecutors, actual jail time looks unlikely at this point.
However, Smollett himself admitted yesterday that his career has been decimated by the matter – even though he has been screening his feature directorial debut B-Boy Blues in recent weeks in hopes of landing a distributor.
After their client spent around eight hours on the stand in total Smollett’s defense rested their case this morning. Closing arguments are set to start tomorrow and then the jury of eight men and seven women will begin their deliberations.