Jussie Smollett and the two Nigerian brothers he allegedly hired to stage a racist and homophobic attack on him in Chicago were seen two days before the incident on surveillance footage appearing to perform a ‘dry run.’
Jurors at his trial Tuesday were shown footage of Smollett walking near the scene of the alleged attack with Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo on January 27, 2019.
The brothers are then seen going to the Crafty Beaver for rope, a beauty supply store for masks and hats and a bank to deposit the $3,500 check Smollett paid them to commit the act. The brothers paid their bill at the beauty supply with a $100 bill Smollett gave them, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Camera footage also showed Smollett pick the brothers up in an alley on Jan. 25, four days before the Jan. 29 attack.
Other evidence seeming to back up claims that Smollett corroborated with the brothers on the attack included text exchanges between Smollett and the brothers from February 14, 2019, the day Smollett appeared on Good Morning America tearfully to talk about the attack.
He texted one of the brothers that day, after they had been taken into custody and said: ‘Brother I love you. I stand with you. I know 100 percent you and your brother did nothing wrong. Please hit me when they let you go. I stand behind you fully.’
At his trial, Chicago detective Michael Theis testified that the men who carried out the attack – Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo – confessed that it was a hoax when they were taken into custody on February 14.
Actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrived Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. He was flanked by his mother Janet, left, and sister Jurnee, right, along with other members of their family
Jurors were shown footage of the Nigerian brothers involved in the alleged hate crime with Smollett two days before buying the supplies used in the attack
He said it was unusual that Smollett insisted he was “making a statement,’ while he had never doen so publicly and still hasn’t.
“To this day, has Mr. Smollett ever come clean about this hate crime?” deputy special prosecutor Samuel Mendenhall asked Theis.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Theis said.
On January 22, 2019, seven days before the attack, Smollett received a letter at the studios of Empire which called him the N-word and a ‘f****t.’
When the brothers were question by police, they said that Smollett had hired them because he was annoyed that producers at Empire didn’t take the letter seriously enough, or make enough of a fuss over it, according to Theis. He paid them $3,500 – which he claims was for personal training – and took them through a rehearsal of the attack on January 25 before the ‘dry run’ on two days before the attack on January 27, Theis said.
Theis also testified that after the initial attack was reported to police, Smollett ‘tightened’ the rope that the brothers had put around his neck to make it more like a noose before cops arrived at his apartment.
Under cross-examination by Smollett’s attorney however, he admitted that he’d heard from another member of the Empire cast that Bola, who’d worked on set, attacked them for being gay. The police never followed it up.
Smollett’s attorney also prompted him to reveal they had found homophobic social media posts on the brothers’ phone, where homosexual men were referred to as ‘fruits’.
They intend to argue that the pair pretended to befriend Jussie, with the intention of later attacking him for being gay.
The jury of six men and six women (ten of whom are white, one of whom is black and one of whom is Hispanic), was shown two photos of him – one taken before cops arrived at his apartment and one taken afterwards – that suggested he’d tightened the rope for effect.
Jussie Smollett was sent this letter at the studio in Chicago where he filmed Empire on January 22, a week before the ‘attack’. The brothers told police that he hired them because he was angry the studio didn’t do more to protect him afterwards
Abel and Ola Osundairo are the brothers who say Smollett paid them to attack him. They are expected to take the stand as witnesses at the trial, and to repeat their previous claim that he paid them $3500 to stage the attack
Theis also told the court that Smollett told police one of the attackers was white and one was light skinned.
It is significant because Smollett has, in the past, used the phrase ‘light skinned’ when describing the patch of skin around one of his attackers’ eyes that he could see because it was exposed by a mask.
Theis testified that Smollett did describe at least one of the attackers as white, and the other as having light skin around his eyes.
Theis said the cops ‘absolutely did not’ rush to accuse him of lying and that they all wanted to find the assailants quickly, after a swell of public sympathy for Smollett, a black and gay actor who the world thought had been the victim of a bigoted hate crime.
He told how the entire department was under immense pressure from everyone from the public to ‘the Mayor’ to find answers to solve the ‘horrible’ attack.
‘It was horrible. It was a hate crime. The noose.
‘The bleach. Everyone from the mayor on down wanted answers,’ Theis testified, according to CBS Chicago, which Judge James Linn allowed into the courtroom on Tuesday morning, after refusing to let most journalists inside for jury selection then limiting the number who he will allow to observe the trial because of COVID restrictions.
Theis said the police department spent thousands of hours investigating the crime as a ‘hate crime’ and that Jussie was initially treated as the victim of a vicious and bigoted attack.
Smollett with his mother Janet and another female relative inside the courthouse on Tuesday morning for day two of the trial
Special prosecutor Dan Webb arrives in court on Tuesday morning ahead of the second day of Jussie Smollett’s trial
Before the day’s proceedings got underway, Smollett’s brother Jojo read a statement on behalf of the family. He said: ‘Good morning. I just want to express that it has been incredibly painful as his family to watch someone you love be accused of something they did not do. We are confident in his legal team and we look forward to people hearing the actual facts in this case. We love him. We’re here to support him, all of us, and to lift him up. Thank you’
This is the rope purchased by the brothers to place around Smollett’s neck in the days before the ‘hoax’ attack
The detective on Tuesday testified that he thinks Smollett tightened the rope around his neck before police arrived to make it look more like a noose
It was only at the end of their investigation, after they had identified the brothers, that they suspected Smollett of lying.
‘At the end of our investigation we determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event and that it did not occur,’ he told prosecutor Samuel Mendenhall.
The piece of evidence that turned the investigation was footage of the pair in an Uber on their way to the attack.
The cops were able to find the car, subpoena the information about who had ordered it and then get the brothers’ names.
Once they had the names, Theis testified that they did a quick search and realized one of the brothers had worked on the set of Empire, and knew Jussie.
‘This filled in a lot of pieces,’ Theis testified.
Theis was also shown a photograph of the brothers on Tuesday and was asked if they were white, to which he quickly replied: ‘No.’
He also testified that Smollett was ‘uncooperative’ and didn’t submit to a DNA swab of his cheek, which detectives said they wanted to rule out the DNA on the ‘noose’ around his neck and hopefully match what was on there to his attackers.
Before the proceedings began on Tuesday, Smollett’s brother Jojo read a prepared statement on behalf of the family outside the courtroom.
‘Good morning. I just want to express that it has been incredibly painful as his family to watch someone you love be accused of something they did not do.
‘We are confident in his legal team and we look forward to people hearing the actual facts in this case. We love him.
Detective Theis said one of the breaks in the case was this Uber footage of the brothers on the night of the attack. Once they got the footage and the information about who had ordered the car, they got the brothers’ names and were able to tie them to Smollett
‘We’re here to support him, all of us, and to lift him up. Thank you,’ he said.
Smollett also refused to hand over his phone, and declined to have his medical records released.
‘It was horrible. It was a hate crime. The noose. The bleach. Everyone from the mayor on down wanted answers’
Detective Michael Theis
On Tuesday, the jury was shown a video form February 14, 2019, of Smollett’s interview on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts.
He cried in the video and definitively identified two men in street surveillance camera footage as his attackers to Roberts.
Those two men were then definitively identified by the Chicago Police Department as the Osundairo brothers.
Theis testified that the interview was useful for cops. He said the Osundairo brothers were picked up at Chicago O’Hare Airport the same day, after returning from a trip to Nigeria.
It was around two weeks after the attack. They flew to Nigeria the day after it.
The jury was also shown this February 14 interview that Smollett took part in for Good Morning America. In that interview, he definitively identified two men in street surveillance camera footage as his attackers, and those two men were later definitively identified by police as the Osundairo brothers
On Monday, Smollett’s attorney said he is not ‘someone who likes attention’ and claimed that he was the victim of a ‘real crime’ and a ‘tremendous rush to judgement’ by police and prosecutors.
‘They are not some foreign exchange students from Nigeria.
‘They are sophisticated, highly intelligent criminals. Jussie thought he had a friend, but that friendship ran one way, it was a one-way street,’ Smollett’s lawyer Nenye Uche said on Monday, adding that the brothers didn’t like Smollett ‘because of who he is as a person.’
‘Jussie Smollett is a real victim,’ attorney Nenye Uche (center, pictured in August 2021) said during opening statements Monday
The brothers are expected to testify later this week and it remains unclear if Smollett himself will testify.
The first day of the trial was chaotic, with confusing instructions from the judge on whether or not media was allowed to be present for jury selection.
At first, Judge James Linn said no media would be allowed in the room because of COVID social distancing restrictions.
He then allowed two reporters – one from The Chicago Tribune and one from ABC – to go inside and report on behalf of all of the media.
Now, no more journalists are being granted access to the section reserved for the media because Judge Linn thinks it breaches COVID restrictions.
The jury consists of five white men, one black man, five white women and one Hispanic woman. There are also two alternatives.
Uche told the jury in opening arguments that the brothers, who will testify, will ‘lie to your face’.
He said Smollett would never have been ‘stupid enough’ to orchestrate the fake attack and pay for it.
Smollett arrived at court on Tuesday morning with his mother Janet, sister Jurnee and other relatives.
He has been supported throughout by his family, and says he is the victim of a rush to judgement by the Chicago Police Department.
He has always claimed that he didn’t want to cooperate with the investigation by handing his phone over or giving DNA swabs because the police department was leaking information to the media from the beginning of the probe.
TIMELINE OF JUSSIE SMOLLETT HOAX ATTACK SCANDAL
Jan. 22, 2019
Smollett receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the studio in Chicago where “Empire” is filmed. Police later say they believe Smollett sent the letter himself.
The brothers said Smollett also sent himself this letter to the Fox studio where Empire is filmed a week before the attack. If he did, he faces another 5-10 years in prison on a federal mail fraud charge
Police say Smollett cut his own cheek to make it look like he had suffered injuries in the attack. He is shown in a hospital bed selfie FaceTiming Lee Daniels, the show’s creator, hours after the attack
Jan. 29, 2019
Jussie Smollett tells police he was attacked by two men in downtown Chicago at 2 a.m.
The actor says the men used racist and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an “unknown substance” on him.
Police say Smollett, who is Black and gay, told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in “MAGA country’
Jan. 30, 2019
Chicago police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack.
Police obtain and release images of two people they want to question, calling them ‘persons of interest’
Feb. 1, 2019
Smollett issues a statement saying he’s OK, that he’s working with authorities and has been ‘100 percent factual and consistent on every level.’
Feb. 2, 2019
Smollett opens a concert in West Hollywood, California, with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win
Police released this image of ‘persons of interest’ taken near the reported attack
Feb. 13, 2019
Chicago police pick up two Nigerian brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after police learn at least one worked on Empire
Police question them and search their apartment
Jussie Smollett on Good Morning America on February 14, 2019
February 20, 2019
Smollett is charged
Feb. 21, 2019
Chicago police say Smollett surrenders to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, punishable by up to three years in prison.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the two brothers to help him.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson tore through Smollett at a press conference on Thursday where he labeled him ‘shameful’ and ‘despicable’
Feb. 22, 2019
Jussie Smollett is shown in his mugshot in February 2019
Empire producers say Smollett’s character to be removed from the final two episodes of the season.
March 7, 2019
A Cook County grand jury returns a 16-count indictment charging Smollett with falsely reporting an offense
March 26, 2019
Smollett’s attorneys say charges alleging he lied to police have been dropped.
March 28, 2019
A city official says Chicago is seeking $130,000 from Smollett to cover the cost of the investigation into his reported beating, which police say was staged.
Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian claims on TV that the attackers could have been wearing ‘white face’ and that’s what made him describe them as light-skinned
April 11, 2019
The city of Chicago files a lawsuit seeking to recoup the investigation costs.
Jussie Smollett’s lawyer Tina Glandian suggested on Thursday that the reason he told police his Nigerian attackers were white was because they ‘might have been wearing white face’ and had disguised themselves. Her evidence of the theory is 2016 video of Abel Osundairo (right) dressed up as the Joker
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the Smollett case
April 23, 2019
The brothers who said they helped Smollett stage the attack file a defamation lawsuit against the actor’s attorneys.
Aug. 23, 2019
Judge names former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor to investigate why charges against Smollett were dropped.
Feb. 11, 2020
Webb says grand jury returns six-count indictment against Smollett, accusing him of lying to police.
Feb. 24, 2020
Smollett pleads not guilty to restored charges.
Oct. 15, 2021
Judge James Linn denies a last-ditch effort to dismiss the criminal case against Smollett and sets his trial for Nov. 29.
November 29, 2021: Jury selection begins