Smollett takes stand in his own trial to deny hoax

by mcardinal

Chris Lieberman, FISM News

 

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett took the stand in his trial on Monday to refute the claim that his alleged attack in January 2019 was a hoax.

Smollett, who is black and gay, claims that he was the victim of a hate crime while walking home at 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019. He alleges that two men in dark clothes and ski masks shouted racist and anti-gay slurs before dumping an unknown chemical on him and tying a noose around his neck. However, prosecutors believe that Smollett staged the attack himself, and he now faces six counts of felony disorderly conduct for falsifying a police report.

The two men who attacked Smollett, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, testified earlier in the trial that Smollett paid them $3,500 to fake the attack in front of a city surveillance camera. Prosecutors claim that Smollett was upset with the studio for not taking an anti-gay and racist piece of hate mail he received seriously enough and staged the attack to get their attention.

On the stand Monday, Smollett said that he gave the brothers the $3,500 check, which was entered into evidence with a memo line reading, “five-week nutrition/workout program,” for help in losing 30 pounds, which he needed to do for the show. According to Smollett, this included payment to obtain an illegal nutritional supplement from Nigeria. Smollett also claims that the text message he sent to Abel just days before the trial, which read “Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?” was in reference to the supplement and not, as the prosecution alleges, the staged attack.

Smollett detailed his past relationship with the brothers, saying that he met Abel while filming the fourth season of “Empire.” He described how the two would frequently drive around smoking marijuana as a way for Smollett to relax, which he says explains why he was seen picking up Abel and driving to the scene of the attack on Jan. 27, just two days before the alleged incident. Prosecutors claim this drive was a “dry run” in preparation for the attack.

Smollett also alleged that he and Abel had romantic encounters. Abel denied this earlier in the trial, claiming to be heterosexual. Smollett described the other brother, Ola, as homophobic and said that he “didn’t like me or he wasn’t feeling me,” citing these feelings as possible motivation for the attack.

Prosecutors questioned Smollett over several of his responses to the alleged attack. When asked why he did not contact police, Smollett said, “I’m a Black man in America. I don’t trust police.” Prosecutors also suggested that Smollett refused to turn over his medical records because they would reveal that he had not suffered any serious injuries, to which Smollett responded, “I absolutely did suffer a significant injury.”

Smollett also cited privacy concerns as the reason he did not turn his phone over to police.

The strategy of having Smollett take the stand is one that could backfire. While the defense hopes the move will make him appear more sympathetic to the jury, he could end up facing more penalties in future if the judge believes that he perjured himself.

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