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Saturday, December 9, 2023
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Prosecution rests case after Osundairo brothers testify Jussie Smollett asked them to beat him up

Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, two of the central characters in Jussie Smollett's criminal trial, told jurors the former "Empire" star asked them to help stage a hate crime against him.

CHICAGO (CN) — State prosecutors rested their case against Jussie Smollett Thursday night after the Osundairo brothers, key witnesses in Smollett's criminal disorderly conduct trial in Chicago, testified that the former "Empire" star asked the pair to attack him on a cold winter night in January 2019.

It's not the first time Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo have made the claim: both Wednesday and in front of a grand jury two years ago, Abimbola told authorities that the actor, who is gay and Black, asked the brothers to help stage a bogus hate crime.

"I thought it was very strange," Abimbola said Thursday, after defense attorney Shay Allen asked what his reaction to the actor's alleged request was.

Throughout the trial, the defense has repeatedly attempted to portray the Osundairo brothers as unreliable witnesses. Besides pointing out to the jury that police found multiple guns, ammo and cocaine in Abimbola's apartment in 2019, Allen accused Abimbola of being Smollett's drug dealer, as well as being in a sexual relationship with Smollett. The attorney further accused Abimbola of using their relationship as a way to advance his own acting career.

Abimbola denied all such accusations. He admitted that he sometimes procured drugs for Smollett, but only as a "middle man" between Smollett and the dealers.

"I'm not a dealer because I don't sell," Abimbola said.

He also flatly denied ever being in a sexual relationship with Smollett or using him for his career. Though he admitted the two once went together to a bathhouse in Chicago's largest gay community, Boystown, he said it was a purely platonic visit. He also later told prosecutors that the guns police found in his apartment were legal and that police returned them after they had completed their investigation.

When Allen later asked Abimbola why he seemed so eager to help Smollett with the allegedly faked attack, as well as with Smollett's drug use, Abimbola replied simply: "We were friends."

Abimbola repeatedly stressed to the defense that he genuinely considered Smollett a platonic friend, and wanted to help him purely for that reason.

Olabinjo admitted in his own questioning by prosecuting attorney Samuel Mendenhall on Thursday that his motivations for agreeing to help carry out the alleged attack were less altruistic.

"Because he was my brother's friend, and I wanted to curry favor," he said. Olabinjo, who is an aspiring actor as well as a fitness trainer and home renovator, said he hoped Smollett would be able to help him with his own career.

Actor Jussie Smollett arrives at Chicago’s Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, for day four of his trial. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

In describing the events leading up to the incident, Olabinjo corroborated many of the claims the prosecution has put forward over the course of the trial: that Smollett planned out and rehearsed the fake attack with the brothers prior to Jan. 29, 2019; that he gave the brothers a $100 bill to buy supplies for the attack; and that Smollett wanted to make it look like he was jumped by racist Donald Trump supporters.

"He wanted us to say, 'aren't you that 'Empire' f***** n*****' and 'this is MAGA country,'" Olabinjo testified. "He pretty much said he wanted to be bruised up so it looked like he was in a real fight."

The defense also seized on the brothers' motivations, forwarding the notion that they carried out the alleged hate crime without Smollett's knowledge in order to scare him into hiring at least Abimbola on as security.

"You attacked Jussie, because you wanted to scare him into hiring as security… so you could move back to L.A. and get that $5,000 a week salary," Allen said to Abimbola, who denied the accusation.

Abimbola instead said that Smollett planned the attack for the sake of media attention, potentially in relation to an actual racist hate letter he received on the set of "Empire" earlier in 2019. This was his explanation when the defense attorney attempted to cast doubt on the idea that the attack was meant only as an act.


"Who was the audience?" Allen asked.

"According to Jussie, the media," Abimbola replied.

Olabinjo corroborated his brother's testimony on direct examination.

"He went on to explain that he got some hate mail... and had this crazy idea of getting attacked by two Trump supporters so he could post it on social media," Olabinjo told Mendenhall.

The theme of media attention also came up when Allen asked Abimbola why the brothers looked up articles on the incident while they were on a trip to Nigeria to visit family. He said it was suspicious, considering the brothers were allegedly part of the story.

"You were there," the defense attorney said.

"I was curious... about media attention. To see if Jussie got what he wanted," Abimbola said.

Olabinjo said that despite agreeing to help, he had no idea that Smollett planned to actually report the incident as a hate crime to police. If he had told the brothers he planned to so, Olabinjo said, he would never have agreed to take part in the alleged scheme.

The defense, during its turn with Olabinjo, focused on his honesty or lack thereof. At one point, defense attorney Tamara Walker was able to catch the older Osundairo brother in a fib, or at least an omission.

On Thursday, Olabinjo said he elected to pour bleach on Smollett during the incident rather than gasoline because gasoline was too toxic a substance. However, in his 2019 grand jury testimony, he stated he didn’t want to use it because he was afraid a gas station camera would catch him filling a gas can.

The questioning of Olabinjo’s honesty extended to his professed lack of homophobia. The defense has repeatedly characterized Olabinjo as being homophobic, though Olabinjo himself denied this. He cited that he worked as a bouncer in Boystown between 2015 and 2018, and once distributed condoms as a Trojan mascot in a gay pride parade.

“I have no hate for anybody. I believe in God. God is love,” Olabinjo said.

However, Walker questioned this statement, citing social media posts in which he characterized a gay man as a “fruity ass” and “gaylord.”

His alleged homophobia, the defense has argued, is a motivating factor in allegedly attacking Smollett.

While exploring this issue, Cook County Criminal Judge James Linn repeatedly clashed with Walker over whether some of her questions regarding how others might interpret the social media messages were unrelated to the issue at hand.

The argument eventually became so heated that Walker motioned for a mistrial, claiming that Linn lunged at her threateningly during the dispute.

Linn flatly dismissed the motion after sending the jury out of the room.

“There is no mistrial here… frankly I’m stunned,” he said.

The denial of the defense’s mistrial motion began a fresh round of argument. It ended with Linn still denying the motion, Walker needing several moments to cool down, and the defense team requesting that Linn making “snarling faces” at Walker be entered into the court record.

Following the mistrial ruckus, Walker resumed questioning Olabinjo about his allegedly homophobic social media messages.

Linn was noticeably quieter during this round of questioning.

After the defense team finished questioning Olabinjo, he was dismissed as a witness. The state prosecutors, having no further witnesses to call, rested their case.

The defense moved for summary judgment immediately after the prosecution rested. Citing conflicting testimony between the Osundairo brothers' recollections of who allegedly hit Smollett, defense argued the prosecution had not met its burden of proof in showing Smollett did not truly believe he had suffered a battery.

As with the defense team’s motion for mistrial, Linn denied this motion out of hand. Instead, Smollett’s attorneys began presenting their own case.

They called to the stand Smollett’s former music manager Brandon Moore, who claimed to have heard the alleged hate crime take place on Jan. 29 while talking to Smollett over the phone, and Dr. Robert Turelli, the emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who first examined Smollett’s injuries following the alleged attack.

Turelli testified that Smollett suffered small cuts and bruises but no serious injuries. Meanwhile, the prosecution was quick to point out that Moore never actually saw the attack and had a material interest in vouching for Smollett.

"The more shows Mr. Smollett did the more money you made, correct?" prosecuting attorney Sean Wieber asked Moore.

“Correct,” Moore responded.

No testimony was delivered Friday. The trial will resume next week, with Linn telling jurors he expects them to begin deliberation by Tuesday.

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Categories / Criminal, Entertainment, Trials

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