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.
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.