jussie smollett trial

Jussie Smollett Trial Updates: Defense Rests, Closing Arguments Expected Wednesday

Jussie Smollett returned to the witness stand Tuesday at his trial in Chicago, where the former “Empire” actor called claims that he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself “100% false.”

Prosecutors continued cross-examining the 39-year-old, who appeared calm through several hours of testimony Monday. He told jurors Monday “there was no hoax” and that he was the victim of a hate crime in his downtown Chicago neighborhood.

Smollett, who faces charges that he lied to Chicago police about the January 2019 attack, sought to refute damaging testimony from two brothers last week.

They said Smollett, who is gay and Black, orchestrated the hoax to get publicity, giving them $100 for supplies and instructing them to place a noose around his neck and yell homophobic slurs. They also said Smollett gave them a $3,500 check to carry it out.

Below are live updates from inside the courthouse, from Day 6 of the trial. We'll update this story as more information becomes available.

Tuesday

-- Jussie Smollett took the witness stand for a second day and more cross-examination by special prosecutor Dan Webb

Smollett testifies repeatedly during questioning of the sequence of events of January 2019 that there was no fake attack, that he was in fact attacked, and he denied the previous testimony that he had planned a staged attack.

Webb then asks about Jan. 27, 2019. Smollett testifies he had gone to pick up Bola Osundairo for a training session at his apartment building’s gym, because Bola said that “Ubers were crazy.”

Smollett says Bola was not wearing work out clothes, nor did he need to because Smollett was the one who would be working out. He said Bola's brother, Ola entered the car and said hello, and nothing more.

Smollett describes Ola as “weird” and as he and Bola smoked weed, he took a phone call, drove around his neighborhood, and because it was “uncomfortable” he used the phone call as an excuse not to work out any longer. 

Webb then asks about the evening of Jan. 28 and Jan. 29, 2019, specifically about the text messages Smollett sent privately to Bola about his flight status back to Chicago. Smollett said Bola called him shortly after landing and that Bola said they would meet at 9:30 the next morning for a training session as planned.

Smollett says no messages were exchanged about the plan to work out that night or the next morning. He denied that the attack was staged and said that he did not trust the Osundairo brothers, and their testimony about the planned attack at 2am was a “bold-faced lie.” 

Webb then picks apart Smollett’s reports to police and his Good Morning America interview where he says the attacker he saw was white. Smollett then clarifies that he said he assumed they were white based on the pale skin he saw, and what they said -- using the n-word, and the reference to MAGA country.

Smollett says he would never call someone white based on how they acted or spoke because “that would be racist.” He said he changed his description to “pale skinned” because he wasn’t certain the attacker was white. 

-- Webb says he has no further questions, and trial goes to break shortly before noon. Either cross-examination will continue or the defense will begin re-direct.

-- The defense had a brief re-direct with Jussie, with Nenye Uche pointing out that Smollett could have lied on the stand about whether the brothers were in the car, since surveillance footage did not show them going into or out of his vehicle at any time, and the windows were tinted. 

Uche went over text messages Smollett sent to someone while he was in the car with the brothers during the “dry run”; Smollett said there were phone calls to that person too. He confirmed he had smoked weed and driven around with Bola before. 

Smollett testified that he cooperated with the FBI investigating the hate mail, by providing a DNA sample and his cell phone, and that he did not trust the CPD with his privacy, and that the brothers asked for $1 million each to testify that he had nothing to do with the attack.

-- In re-cross, Smollett confirmed he provided his phone and DNA sample to the FBI months later. Smollett also clarified upon Webb’s inquiry that the brothers never called or texted or spoke to him about the $2 million arrangement in exchange for favorable testimony; Smollett said instead it was their lawyers or agents who contacted his representatives.

-- The seventh and last witness for the defense was David Elegbe, the Uber driver who had answered the brothers’ Uber request in the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019. He testified that the first one who entered the Uber had been talking, but had not seen a phone. He also testified that the brothers changed their destination mid-ride. Tamara Walker asked Elegbe that an Uber ride can be changed only via the app; Elegbe said if someone else ordered the Uber for a person, that person could change the destination. Elegbe said the brothers saw a cab and asked him to stop driving, and they got out. 

-- Mendenhall in his cross-examination asked if Elegbe knew the two individuals in the car were actors, and suggested that the first one who entered was rehearsing his lines for a staged attack. 

-- The defense rested their case; prosecutors said they had no rebuttal witnesses.

-- Judge Linn instructed the jury that they would begin closing arguments a 9:15a.m. CT Wednesday. 

Monday

First witness called by the Defense is Anthony Moore. Moore is a security guard at the Sheraton Grand on North Water Street and was on duty the night of the alleged attack.

Moore testified that he was on duty at 2 a.m. at the Chicago Burger Company inside the hotel. He said he heard somebody coming towards him and pointed his flightlight out to see who it was.

Moore testifies that he saw a male figure coming towards him dressed in all black with a mask on. Moore said he pointed the flashlight right in his face, and that the man came within a foot or two. Moore said he saw that the man was a white male, because he could see the eyes through the man's mask.

Moore then said the man ran past him, saying "It's cold, it's cold." Moore testifies that he also saw a second man who was shorter and wider, and someone else at a distance who appeared to be on all fours looking for something.

Just after noon, Smollett is called to the stand, and the first questions to the actor are about his background. When asked what he does for a living, Smollett says "artist."

Smollett was then asked by attorneys to describe his relationship with Bola Osundairo.

Smollett refers to him as "Bon," and says Osundairo was initially introduced to him in 2019 as security, for when Smollett would frequent clubs. It turned out he also worked on Empire as a “background actor.”

Smollett testifies that they became friends, and the first night they might they took drugs, cocaine and weed, and got a private room in a bath house. “We did more drugs and made out,” Smollett says.

Later in the day, Smollett continued his testimony on the nature of his relationship with Bola, saying that he agreed to pay him $3,500 for training and meal plans to get in shape for a music video.

Read more from Smollett's testimony here.

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Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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