The Jussie Smollett trial continued on Monday with the former “Empire” actor taking the stand to testify in his own defense, and he dropped a few surprises while insisting his fanciful tale of being a victim of a hate crime was “no hoax.”
Charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct after allegedly staging a racist, homophobic attack on himself and lying to police about it, Smollett is sticking to his story as the trial culminating almost three years of drama begins to wrap up — it was on January 29, 2019 that the actor claimed that two people he described as white men wearing MAGA hats beat him in downtown Chicago during a post-midnight run to Subway, shouting racial and homophobic slurs, pouring an unknown chemical substance, possibly bleach, on him and tied a noose around his neck. His alleged attackers supposedly yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
Smollett, who is gay, testified Monday that he had a sexual encounter with one of the two Nigerian brothers who said the actor hired them to stage the attack. Smollett claimed he and Abimbola Osundairo did drugs together, made out and masturbated each other at a gay bathhouse in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, according to the New York Post. Osundairo denied the sexual encounter under oath last week, but did admit he had gone to the bathhouse with Smollett at least once.
The brothers testified last week that Smollett directed and paid them to carry out the attack in order to garner sympathetic media coverage and Smollett was reportedly caught on surveillance video doing a “dry run” one day before the incident.
The now unemployed actor also testified that he had taken the rope from around his neck when he got home but put it back on after his creative director Frank Gaston told him to — when police arrived at his apartment about an hour after the alleged attack, Smollett had the rope around his neck.
“Why would I keep it on?” Smollett said when asked why he took off the rope. “Frank told me to put the stuff back on as to not mess with the evidence.”
Another detail Smollett offered was that CNN’s Don Lemon contacted him early on during the Chicago Police Department’s investigation of the supposed hate crime, the Post reported. He said Lemon texted him to tell him that the CPD didn’t believe his account of what happened — perhaps a trait Lemon picked up from pal Chris Cuomo, who was fired after helping his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, counter sexual misconduct allegations.
The Lemon text reportedly made Smollett uneasy about turning over his phone records to police investigators.
Smollett testified “he would’ve never called the police” after the incident — his manager called CPD — because as a “black man in America, I don’t trust police,” according to the Post.
He also said he had concerns about how it may impact his career aspirations, “I want to play a boxer, I want to play a superhero, I want to blow stuff up. The moment I got beat I became a f—t who got his ass whooped.”
Police said Smollett staged the hoax because he was not happy with his “Empire” salary, the article noted. The actor testified that when he was first hired in 2014 he was getting around $27,000-28,000 per episode for a 10-episode season, and by the fifth season, when he was fired, he was being paid $100,000 per episode — the series ran 18 episodes each year after the first season.
Turns out, Smollett is also a pot head, admitting on the stand that he regularly smoked blunts rolled in Swisher Sweet brand cigars. He testified that as a cast member on ‘Empire’, he would drive around the neighborhood where the studio was located at lunchtime and get stoned — this allegedly being part of his creative process as a singer/songwriter.
Smollett is set to be cross-examined by prosecutors on Tuesday and many believe the trial may conclude as early as Wednesday.
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