Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett took the witness stand Monday in his defense, hoping to convince a jury that he was an innocent victim of a hate crime attack and not the mastermind of a hoax.
Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack — one count for each time he gave 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 convicted he likely would be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.
Smollett, the former “Empire” star who lost his job with the show in the wake of the incident, forcefully pushed back against allegations that he hired brothers Bola and Olabinjo Osundairo to stage the attack, which took place near Smollett’s Streeterville apartment.
Prosecutors say Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with the “Empire” studio’s response to hate mail he received. The letter including a drawing of a stick figure hanging by a noose, with a gun pointed at it, and the word “MAGA.”
Here were some of the key moments from Smollett’s testimony.
Smollett Details Relationship With Osundairo Brothers
Smollett testified that he needed a personal trainer for multiple reasons, including producers of “Empire” telling him that he had “gotten fat,” and that he had a music video to film that would require him to be shirtless.
He testified that he paid Bola $3,500 for training and meal plans, and wrote him a check to make that payment.
It was that check that prosecutors allege was used to pay for a faked attack, a charge that Smollett denied during his testimony.
In addition to hiring Bola as his trainer, Smollett says that he would “drive around smoking weed” with him as part of his music-writing process.
“Did you ever drive around your neighborhood smoking a blunt?” defense attorney Nenye Uche asked Smollett during his testimony.
“Sometimes,” the actor said.
Smollett said he met Bola Osundairo in 2017 at a club, where he learned Osundairo also worked on the set of “Empire.” He said the two men did drugs together and went to a bathhouse, where Smollett said they “made out." Over time, he said the two men did more drugs and participated in sex acts together. Osundairo testified last week that he and Smollett didn’t have a sexual relationship.
Smollett said that he never trusted Olabinjo Osundairo, and didn’t know anything about his previous felony conviction or the fact that he possessed weapons.
“(He) kinda creeped me out,” he said. “He didn’t like me or wasn’t feeling me, that was fine. He took the vibe out of the room.”
Smollett Compares the Attack to ‘Looney Tunes’
As his testimony continued, Smollett testified about the attack itself, saying that it was “something out of Looney Tune adventures.”
The actor testified that he was walking in Streeterville when he was attacked by two men, who he says got his attention by shouting racist and homophobic slurs.
“It felt like something out of Looney Tune adventures…someone that felt massive just coming up to me, not even enough time to think,” he said.
The actor says that he was violently assaulted by two men, who yelled racial slurs at him during the attack. He says he was attacked with bleach and had a noose put around his neck, which he says he didn’t notice until after the attack took place.
When he arrived back at his apartment, he says that a friend told him to put the noose back on so that police could see it.
Smollett Faces Cross-Examination From Special Prosecutor
Smollett says that a friend who was at his apartment called police, a move that the actor says upset him.
“I am a Black man in America. I do not trust the police,” he said. “I am also a well-known figure at that time, and I am an openly gay man.”
During cross-examination, Smollett was asked why he did not give his phone to police during the investigation, and said that he wanted to protect his privacy.
When asked by special prosecutor Dan Webb if he was concerned the phone would show calls to Abimbola Osundairo, Smollett said no.
Osundairo had testified earlier in the trial that Smollett sent him a text message — which jurors saw — about talking “on the low,” and that during the conversation Smollett asked him about helping to stage the attack.
Smollett said Monday that message was in reference to an illegal steroid.
Smollett testified that Osundairo told him about an herbal steroid that encourages weight loss but is illegal in the U.S. He said Osundairo told the actor he could get him some “on the low” — or secretly — while he was on an upcoming trip to Nigeria.
‘I’ve Lost My Livelihood’
Smollett was asked by defense attorneys whether he liked the notoriety that he attained after the incident, and told the court that he “lost my livelihood” as a result of the case.
Smollett recounted the struggles he went through after the news unfolded, saying that everyone in the country, including former President Donald Trump, had an opinion about the attack, and that he hated the attention.
Smollett, who was written out of “Empire” after the incident became public, has not been credited with any roles since, according to his IMDB page.
The Associated Press and NBC 5's Charlie Wojciechowski contributed to this story.