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Man who worked with Jussie Smollett told court he was recruited to ‘pretend to beat’ the disgraced actor

CHICAGO (AP) – A man who worked with Jussie Smollett said on Wednesday that the former ‘Empire’ actor recruited him and his brother to fake a homophobic and racist attack on him in the city center from Chicago almost three years ago.

Abimbola Osundairo said Smollett asked her and her brother to “pretend to beat him” and told them how to carry out the January 2019 hoax. Smollett planned a “run” and he gave a $ 100 ticket to purchase supplies for the staged attack, Osundairo said.

He said he and his brother agreed because Osundairo, who worked as a backup on “Empire,” felt indebted to Smollett for helping him in his acting career.

Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report – 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.

Smollett’s defense attorney says he was a “real victim” and the brothers’ accounts are unreliable.

Abimbola Osundairo, walks through the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court courtroom after a lunch break during actor Jussie Smollett’s trial on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 in Chicago. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)

Osundairo said that a few days before the attack, Smollett showed him hate mail he allegedly received at the “Empire” studio. Jurors saw the note, which included a drawing of a person suspended by a noose, with a gun pointed at the stick and the letters “MAGA,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” .

He said days later that Smollett texted him asking him to meet “in secret”, which he took to meet privately about something secret. Osundairo said that when they met Smollett asked him to “beat him” and asked if his brother could help him.

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

Osundairo said that prior to the staged attack, Smollett led the brothers to where the attack would take place, and they decided the men should bleach Smollett rather than the plan. initial to use gasoline. He also said Smollett said a camera in the area would record the attack.

“He wanted a camera to catch him,” Osundairo said.

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Earlier Wednesday, a Chicago police detective said Smollett appeared troubled when told that a surveillance camera had not recorded the alleged assault. Chicago Police Detective Kimberly Murray said she interviewed the former “Empire” actor on the morning of the attack and told her he was assaulted by two men – one white and wearing a ski mask, the other one he couldn’t see – as he walked home after buying a sandwich.

Murray also said Smollett told him he had received a threatening phone call days earlier, but refused to hand over his cell phone, which the detective said could help police establish a timeline of this. happened, and he would not consent to give out medical records. or a DNA swab.

She said Smollett was “upset” when she told him that a surveillance camera in the area did not capture the alleged attack because it was pointed away from the scene. Murray said he explained to the actor that the pod camera cover makes it impossible to know which direction it is pointing.

A Chicago police officer said on Tuesday that investigators had tracked down two possible suspects in the assault – the brothers who also worked on the “Empire” set in Chicago – using surveillance video and tapes from taxi and taxi drivers. carpooling. When taken into custody, they explained to police how Smollett orchestrated the fake attack, including buying supplies and doing a “run” with them.

Man who worked with Jussie Smollett told court he was recruited to ‘pretend to beat’ the disgraced actor

Actor Jussie Smollett asks photographers to step back as he arrives with his mother Janet, right, at the Leighton courthouse for the third day of his trial in Chicago on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)

A detective who interviewed Smollett two weeks after the alleged assault – and after the brothers, who are black, were arrested – said Smollett had started to change his story. Smollett told Graves that his attacker had “pale skin”, although he had previously said he was white. When Graves confronted Smollett about the spread, Smollett said the forward “acted like he was white by what he said”.

Graves also told Smollett that Abimbola Osundairo and her brother Olabingo were in custody for hate crimes.

“He said ‘it can’t be them, they’re black as sin”, “said Graves, saying he understood that the brothers’ skin was very dark.

Graves said during the February 14 interview, Smollett said he would sign a lawsuit against the brothers, although his lawyer prevented him from doing so. About 90 minutes later, Smollett texted one of the brothers, Graves said.

“Brother… I love you. I am with you, ”the message read. “I know 1000% that you and your brother haven’t done anything wrong and never would. I’m making a statement so everyone will know that. They won’t get away with this. Please, hit me when they let you go I’m completely behind you.

Graves said he concluded that Smollett lied to him.

Defense lawyer Nenye Uche said the brothers attacked Smollett, who is black and gay, “because of who he is” and suggested on Tuesday that the brothers were homophobic.

After their arrest, the Osundairo brothers told police Smollett asked them to organize the attack because he was not happy with the way the TV studio handled the hate messages he received. Senior investigator in charge of the case, Michael Theis, said on Tuesday. He said investigators corroborated their version of events using GPS, cellphone recordings and video evidence and found no instances where they concluded the men were lying.

Jurors saw surveillance video on Tuesday of the brothers buying supplies, including a red hat that they told police Smollett wanted them to wear to look like supporters of then-President Donald Trump. and a piece of clothesline, police said, was then fashioned into the noose. Jurors also saw a still image from a video which Theis said showed Smollett returning home the night of the alleged attack, with the clothesline draped around his shoulders. The clothesline was wrapped around her neck when officers arrived, Theis said, leading detectives to believe Smollett may have re-tied it.

Uche described the Osundairo brothers as unreliable and said when police searched their home they found heroin and guns. The brothers will testify at the trial, but it’s unclear if Smollett will.

Uche also sought to discredit the police investigation, suggesting that detectives ignored possible leads. And he said a check for $ 3,500 the actor paid the brothers was for personal training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not to carry out the hoax, as prosecutors claim. . Theis said the memo on the check said it was “nutrition” and “training.”

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