CHICAGO – Two brothers arrested for an alleged assault on Jussie Smollett told Chicago police how the ex-“Empire” actor had staged the joke and texted them to say it was “at the bottom” meet to pay for supplies and conduct a “test run” in downtown Chicago, the chief investigator testified on Tuesday.
When prosecutors began their trial against Smollett, former Chicago police detective Michael Theis said he initially viewed the actor as a victim of homophobic and racial attack and that the police had “absolutely” failed to reach a verdict, as Smollett’s attorneys alleged during opening statements Monday.
Theis said that around two dozen detectives spent around 3,000 hours in what they believed to be “horrific hate crimes” in January 2019.
“The crime was a hate crime, a terrible hate crime,” Theis said, noting that Smollett – who is black and gay – reported that his attackers put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. He said the case had become national and international news and “everyone from the mayor wanted to know what happened,” a reference to then-mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Smollett has been charged with negligent assault for creating a false police report on the alleged attack, prosecutors say. The Grade 4 crime carries up to three years’ imprisonment, but experts have said that if convicted, Smollett is likely to be paroled and possibly given community service.
After police arrested Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo – brothers who also worked on the set of Empire – when they were returning to Chicago from Nigeria, the men said Smollett wanted to stage the attack because he was unhappy with the way the TV was –Studio dealt with hate mail against the actor, said Theis. He said investigators checked the brothers’ account, including that the actor picked them up days before the attack and drove them around the downtown area where he lived, talking about what was going to happen and their version of events with GPS and cell phone records confirmed and video evidence. Police did not find a case where they concluded the men were lying, he added.
The jury was shown surveillance video of the brothers buying supplies, including a red hat they told police to wear to resemble supporters of then-President Donald Trump and a length of clothesline that was later formed into the noose.
“At the end of the investigation, we established that the alleged hate crime was indeed a staged event,” said Theis, and the Osundairo brothers were released.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche said during opening statements late Monday that the brothers attacked Smollett for not liking him and that the actor paid them a check for $ 3,500 for training so he could look forward to an upcoming one Can prepare music video.
“Jussie Smollett is a real victim,” said Uche.
The brothers will take a stand, but it is not known whether Smollett will testify.
Portraying the brothers as unreliable, Uche said their story had changed, Smollett’s, and when police searched their home they found heroin and guns.
“They’ll lie in your face,” Uche told the jury.
Outside the courtroom, Smollett’s brother said Tuesday it was “incredibly painful” for the family to see Smollett being charged with something he “didn’t do”.
“We trust his legal team and look forward to people learning the real facts of this case,” said Jojo Smollett.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors on Monday that Smollett had told police he had been attacked by Trump supporters, which sparked political divisions across the country.
“When he reported the fake hate crime, it was a real crime,” said Webb.
Webb said Smollett thought the TV studio didn’t take hate mail he received seriously. Police have not established who wrote the letter, which contained a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree and “MAGA,” a reference to Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Webb said Smollett told the brothers to shout racist and homophobic slurs and “MAGA” during the staged attack.
Uche countered that Smollett declined additional security measures when the studio offered them, and he told jurors that there was no “scrap” of physical and forensic evidence linking Smollett to the prosecutor’s allegations.
Uche also suspected that a third attacker was involved. Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from a local woman who said she saw a white man with “reddish-brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “saw what looked like a rope under his jacket.”
Your comments could support Smollett’s allegation that his attackers had placed a makeshift noose around his neck. If she also states that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements – widely ridiculed because the brothers are black – that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.
Twelve jurors and two deputies were sworn in on Monday to hear the case, which Judge James Linn said will last about a week.