Jussie Smollett was back on the stand for a second day Tuesday, facing cross examination from prosecutors in his trial for allegedly staging a fake hate crime.
The former “Empire” actor continued to stand firm that “there was no hoax on my part” in a trial that culminates three years of drama, and called the Nigerian brothers who testified that he paid them to carry out the attack in order to garner sympathetic media coverage “liars.” Smollett also admitted on the stand he changed the description of his assailants from “white” to “pale,” claimed to have permanent injuries from the attack and snapped at the prosecutor for using the N-word while reading aloud his texts.
On January 29, 2019, Smollett 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!”
While taking the stand in his own defense Monday, Smollett dropped the bombshell that CNN anchor Don Lemon texted him early on during the Chicago Police Department’s investigation of the supposed hate crime to tip him off that the CPD didn’t believe his account of what happened.
At one point, Smollett told the judge he “didn’t want to answer yes or no” to the prosecutor’s questions, prompting the judge to reply, “Please. It’s the same for all witnesses, it’s not personal to you. The lawyer asks questions, you answer them.”
As for changing the description on the alleged assailants, he testified that he “assumed” they were white but changed his story later because it was the “right” thing to do, according to the Daily Mail.
“I didn’t wаnt to аssume they were Cаucаsiаns. So I sаid, ‘Let me chаnge thаt аnd just sаy they were pаle skinned,'” Smollett said, adding that that this was the “responsible” thing to do becаuse he couldn’t be sure.
“They could’ve been а white person, they could’ve been а pаle someone else,” he said.
Smollett got testy when asked if he described the men as white becаuse he thought it would help аttrаct more аttention, shooting back, “You’d hаve to аsk someone who аctuаlly did а fаke hаte crime.”
Practiced at the art of playing a victim, Smollett reportedly became defensive when asked why he sent Instagram private messages to one of the brothers, Abel Osundairo, in the hours before the attack.
Prosecutors suggested he was informing Osundairo that the timing of the planned attack may be at risk because his flight from New York to Chicago was delayed, with special prosecutor Dan Webb, who is white, reading aloud the text messages: “N***** this is brutal. Still on this damn runway,” and “N***** finally made it.”
Taking a morally righteous stand, Smollett told Webb not to use the N-word while reading the texts out loud out of respect for “every African American person in the room.”
When Webb apologized, the actor replied with an air of vindication, “Apology accepted but it’s been used a lot.”
Near the end of the cross examination, Webb questioned whether Smollett “getting a few bruises” had really impacted his acting career.
“Mr. Webb, I have a scar under my eye that looks like a bag for the rest of my life,” Smollett shot back, adding that he has a “black circle” on his face. “It’s absolutely a problem.”
The special prosecutor showed Smollett a photo of his interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, which took place a few weeks after the attack. Smollett did not appear to have any of the scarring he referenced in the photo, but the actor dismissed this by claiming that the makeup applied before the interview “makes me look much better.”
Smollett’s lawyers rested their case after his testimony and prosecutors had no other witnesses to call, so the judge scheduled closing arguments for Wednesday.
Charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a racist, homophobic attack on himself and lying to police about it, the unemployed actor could face up to three years in prison, but is largely expected to be sentenced to probation and ordered to perform community service if found guilty.
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