Jussie Smollett trial: the jury delivers a verdict

CHICAGO – A verdict was delivered in Jussie Smollett’s criminal trial on Thursday, nearly three years after he told police two fanatics in love with Trump beat him, tied a noose and sprayed him with bleach on a scorching night in January 2019.

Jurors deliberated for more than nine hours before delivering their verdict.

They had heard the testimony of 13 witnesses for six days and in the absence of compelling evidence, the trial in Chicago Criminal Court had ended with the most credible story: that of Smollett, or that of Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo.

The defense vehemently argued that Smollett had been the victim of a genuine hate crime and called the brothers “sophisticated liars and criminals”, who then offered to retract their story and “tell the truth” in return for $ 2 million. of dollars.

“He’s stupid enough to walk into Obama town and pretend there are Trump supporters running around in MAGA hats?” Give me a break, ”defense attorney Nenye Uche told jurors in closing arguments.

Jussie Smollett appears in court on Thursday.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, left, cross-examines actor Jussie Smollett on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 in Chicago.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb cross-examines Jussie Smollett on December 7, 2021 in Chicago.
AP Photo / Cheryl Cook

“The brothers were like wolves disguised as sheep in the henhouse. ”

Prosecutors, however, said Smollett exploited strained race relations for his own gain and paid the Osundairos $ 3,500 to stage the attack so he could gain attention.

“It’s clearly a violation of the law to go to the police and report a bogus crime to the police and tell the police it’s a real crime,” Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury.

“Downright denigrating something so serious, so heinous as a real hate crime, bashing it and then making sure it was words and symbols that have such horrific historical significance in our country was everything. just wrong to do it and he did. ”

The two brothers, who had known the former “Empire” actor for about a year and a half before the alleged hoax, both gave testimony lasting several hours as star witnesses for the prosecution. Abimbola, 28, told jurors that he and Smollett met at a club in the fall of 2017 and quickly became so close he saw the actor as a “brother”.

The two Nigerian brothers questioned about the Jussie Smollett attack are actors Abimbola 'Abel' and Olabinjo 'Ola' Osundairo
Abimbola ‘Abel’ and Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo testified that the attack was Smollett’s idea.

So when Smollett texted him on January 25, 2019 asking for “help on the down”, he agreed to meet with the actor, who raised a hate mail he received that showed a guy hung and the words “You will die black fg.

“He explained that the studio didn’t take the mail seriously, the hate mail it received earlier,” Abimbola said.

“I was confused, I looked puzzled, then he explained that he wanted me to pretend to beat him.”

Abimbola, who is now an amateur boxer, claimed that Smollett told him specific lines he wanted the brothers to deliver – “‘Empire’, f – t, n – – r, MAGA” – and then gave step-by-step instructions.

“He wanted me to hit him but he wanted me to pull the blow so I didn’t hurt him, then he wanted me to push him aside and throw him to the ground and bruise him,” Abimbola said.

“Then he wanted him to look like he was fighting, so I was supposed to give him a chance to fight, then finally toss him to the ground and my brother would tie the noose around his neck and pour water. ‘bleach on him. ”

Empire director and creator Lee Daniels shares a screenshot showing Jussie Smollett's injuries sustained in an alleged biased hate crime attack in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street, Chicago , January 28, 2019.
“Empire” director and creator Lee Daniels chats with Jussie Smollett on January 28, 2019.
Lee daniels

During a “test drive” two days later, Abimbola said Smollett had shown the brothers a location for the alleged attack that was in direct view of surveillance cameras because he “wanted to use the footage from the media camera ”.

The brothers admitted to finding the request bizarre, but agreed to participate because Smollett was famous and could help them in their own budding acting career.

“I mentioned to Ola that I felt indebted to Jussie and that he had helped me and that he could actually advance our acting career and Ola agreed,” said Abimbola.

From the start, the defense case has largely focused on attacking the credibility of the Osundairos and establishing reasonable doubt by presenting a series of witnesses who have undermined the brothers’ history.

Former Smollett publicist Pamela Sharp testified the actor hated media attention and Anthony Moore, a security guard patrolling near the scene of the alleged attack, told jurors he was adamant he had saw a white man flee the area and prosecutors pressured him to change his story.

Chicago crime scene investigators examine a bottle of Habanero Chili Hot Sauce containing some form of liquid.  The hot sauce bottle could have been inspected by police when it was first found in N. New Street and E.North Water Street in the Streeterville neighborhood investigating the actor
Abimbola testified that Smollett chose the location of the attack because it was in direct view of surveillance cameras.
GNMiller / NYPost

But after a three-day hiatus in the trial and explosive testimony from the two Osundairos, Smollett unexpectedly appeared on the stand on Monday morning and said everything the brothers had said was a “bold lie”.

“There was no hoax,” Smollett told jurors.

“What happened to me, has happened.”

He explained that the night he met Abimbola, the two took cocaine together and later kissed and touched in a private room in Steamworks, a gay public bathhouse in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood.

The actor testified that the two then masturbated together in the same public bath, and that Abimbola frequently bought cocaine and marijuana for him, and spoke of being his security guard.

“Security was mentioned a lot… it just came out like ‘dude, you should let me be your security,’” Smollett told jurors.

“It became a common joke, he would act like we were Secret Service when we were together.”

The defense pointed out that Smollett’s security guards could earn up to $ 5,000 a month, but the one thing the actor wanted to hire Abimbola for was fitness related.

Chicago crime scene investigators examine a bottle of Habanero Chili Hot Sauce containing some form of liquid.  The hot sauce bottle could have been inspected by police when it was first found in N. New Street and E.North Water Street in the Streeterville neighborhood investigating the actor
Abimbola said Smollett wanted the brothers to pour bleach on him during the attack.
GNMiller / NYPost

He testified that the $ 3,500 he paid Abimbola was for personal training services and a meal plan when he needed to lose weight before a music video was filmed and when he did. texted him asking for his “help on the low”, these were herbal steroids which are illegal in the United States – nothing more.

Time and time again, the former “Mighty Ducks” actor has denied asking the brothers to stage a hate crime and, during cross-examination on Tuesday, became irritable and combative when Special Prosecutor Dan Webb had him. grilled about the inconsistencies in his story.

When Smollett initially spoke to the cops, he said one of the attackers was white – an assumption he made mainly based on the vitriolic statements that were made – but then told the cops that the attacker had “pale skin” because it was the “responsible” thing to do.

Prosecutors said the alleged hoax was originally scheduled for the evening of January 28, 2019, but was pushed back to 2 a.m. on January 29 when a flight Smollett was taking from New York to Chicago was delayed for several hours.

Before the alleged ruse, Smollett admitted that he sent Abimbola four messages giving him updates on his delayed flight, but claimed it was because he and the coach planned to train that night. there, while prosecutors said the texts were proof they were coordinating.

The hate crime Smollett claimed he suffered sparked international outrage, then disgust, when police said he made it all up.

The actor was originally charged with staging a hate crime in February 2019, but in a startling reversal, Chicago prosecutors dropped all charges against him after he agreed to waive a 10,000 bond. $ and showed proof that he had completed two days of community service.

Against the backdrop of Smollett’s failed performance as a hate crime victim, the scandal quickly engulfed Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, who was widely criticized for the move and has subsequently recognized for committing a series of unethical blunders in his handling of the case.

Former state appeals judge Sheila O’Brien managed to convince a judge that a special prosecutor was needed to investigate the office’s handling of the case and into a scathing decision that summer , Judge Michael Toomin agreed and declared the Foxx case void since compensation.

Jussie Smollett (C) arrives at Leighton Criminal Court with his family and lawyers for his trial
Jussie Smollett arrives at Leighton Criminal Court with his family and lawyers for his trial.

Toomin subsequently appointed Webb as a special prosecutor, who laid new charges against Smollett in February 2020.

The actor faces up to three years in prison for these crimes.

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