Tamara Walker, one of several lawyers representing embattled Empire actor Smollett, accused Cook County Judge James Linn of ‘physically lunging’ at her Thursday after she motioned for a mistrial
Tamara Walker, one of several lawyers representing the embattled Empire actor, accused Cook County Judge James Linn of ‘physically lunging’ at her Thursday, during her team’s cross-examination of a key witness in the case.
The case looks to determine whether Smollett, a gay, African-American man, lied to police in 2019 when he said he was the victim of an alleged hate crime attack in Chicago in January of that year.
Prosecutors allege that Smollett paid $3,500 to two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to stage the attack, though Smollett vehemently denies such charges.
On Thursday, Smollett’s legal team, particularly Walker, grilled Olabinjo about his past use of homophobic slurs.
During the cross-examination, Walker showed the court a social media post where the 30-year-old slammed gay singer Frank Ocean, saying ‘that [n-word] gay.’
Olabinjo reportedly told Walker that he didn’t consider the tweet ‘problematic,’ but rather an off-color joke between friends.
The case looks to determine whether Empire Actor Jussie Smollett, a gay, African-American man, lied to police in 2019 when he said he was the victim of an alleged hate crime attack in Chicago in January of that year
Walker also produced a text change from Smollett’s alleged accomplice, where he referred to a person as ‘a fruit’ and a ‘gaylord’ – slurs commonly used against homosexual men. Olabinjo argued that he used the terms out of anger, and denied being homophobic.
Olabinjo then acknowledged that he used the term ‘fruity ass’ to refer to a man he suspected was gay, which prompted Walker to ask if his friend Smollett knew he’d said such things in the past.
However, before Olabinjo could respond, Linn stepped in, and put the kibosh on Walker’s line of questioning, calling its contents ‘collateral’ – meaning it did not have any relevance to the crime Smollett is currently accused of.
This prompted Walker to ask the jurist for a sidebar, which Linn – who recently banned cameras and photographers from the high profile trial – subsequently granted.
During the ensuing conference, according to Walker, Linn ‘physically lunged’ at her after members of the jury had left the room, when the African-American lawyer motioned for a mistrial.
‘When you said the word mistrial on these grounds, frankly I was stunned you’d even consider a mistrial based on this,’ Linn reportedly responded.
‘I marched right back behind my bench,’ Linn told The New York Post Thursday following the alleged incident, adding that he didn’t lunge at the lawyer.
After seeing her motion rejected, Walker looked to be close to tears as she argued with Linn that a mistrial was warranted.
She then left the courtroom with her mother, who was in the gallery, while court was still in session, as the rest of Smollett’s team continued to clamor for a mistrial.
One of Walker’s colleagues, defense attorney Heather Widell, reportedly then argued to the judge that their team had the legal grounds for their request, and accused Linn of ‘snarling’ at the band of attorneys whenever he would sustain an objection from the prosecution.
Widell added that she wanted to make sure the judge’s non-verbal cues were on the record.
‘I’ve noticed snarls multiple times,’ Widell was heard saying during the Thursday hearing.
Linn then took the discussion into his chambers, with the jurists emerging about 10 minutes later.
At that point, Linn brought the jury back out, and told them to ignore legalese-laden comments he made to the attorneys.
‘Sometimes words come out like ‘focus’ or ‘collateral,’ Linn conceded.
‘That’s not part of your consideration – that’s just me communicating with the lawyers,’ the judge clarified.
‘That’s just me conducting the trial the way I think it should be conducted.’
Walker then continued with her cross-examination of Osundairo.
During his time on the stand, Osundairo asserted his intention of ‘getting the truth out’ through his testimony in the contentious case.
He added that he had made no arrangements or deals with the prosecution, and was testifying to accurately share what actually happened the night of the alleged attack, a night he and his brother said was ‘colder than penguin feet’.
He and his brother Abel – who Smollett’s team said he was having a sexual relationship with on Thursday – say they were hired by the actor to beat him up but not hurt him in a staged hate crime that Smollett wanted to go viral.
They didn’t anticipate that police would become involved, and only ever wanted to help Smollett, their ‘friend’ who’d helped them with their careers and picked up the tab when they partied together.
Ola told the court that contrary to what Smollett’s team had suggested, he was never a violent homophobe and had worked at a gay club called Boystown where he respected the clientele. The jury was also shown a photo of Ola dressed up as a Trojan warrior at a Pride parade in 2015.
When asked what he did that day, he said he spent the time ‘handing out condoms and flexing.’
‘I have no hate for anybody,’ he told the jury.
Earlier, in a surprise line of questioning, defense attorney Shay Allen asked Ola’s brother Abel: ‘When did you and Jussie start dating?’
He then asked him if he remembered the time he and Smollett ‘masturbated in a bathhouse’ together. Abimbola replied: ‘We were never dating,’ and said that he just wanted to be friends with Smollett.
Olabinjo Osundairo took the stand on Thursday afternoon at Smollett’s trial with the intention of ‘getting the truth out’, he said. He said he had made no arrangements or deals with the prosecution, and was testifying to share what happened on January 29, 2019. He denied being homophobic, as Jussie’s team had suggested, and said he worked as a bouncer at a gay club for a year
Abel Osundairo, who Jussie’s lawyers claimed he was in a relationship with, is pictured on his way back into court on Thursday after going to Popeye’s for lunch. He told DailyMail.com he was ‘glad every day’ that the trial was underway
Olabinjo Osundairo (right) told the court that he wasn’t a homophobe like Jussie’s lawyers claimed he was, and had worked as a bouncer at a gay club. He testified that in 2015, he dressed up as a Trojan warrior and went to Pride ‘handing out condoms and flexing’. Jussie’s attorneys suggested that Jussie had a sexual relationship with Abel Osundairo (left) and that the pair ‘masturbated in bathhouses’
On day four, the Osundario brothers – Abimbola (pictured left) and Olabinjo (right) – arrived accompanied by their attorney at approximately 8:45 a.m.
Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago
During a brief lunch break, the brothers told DailyMail.com on their way out of Popeye’s that they couldn’t speak too much about the trial and didn’t know how long it was going to last.
Abel said he was ‘glad every day’ when asked if he was relieved that the trial was finally underway.
Smollett’s attorneys also asked Abimbola if he was using the sexual tension between the two men to help his acting career. Abimbola said that he wasn’t aware there was any sexual tension with Smollett. He later clarified on re-direct examination that he was not a homosexual and that Smollett had never initiated a sexual relationship between the two.
Abimbola told the court that none of them thought police would ever become involved, and that they only intended to grab the attention of the media.
‘I wasn’t thinking,’ he said, under cross-examination from Smollett’s attorney.
Olabinjo testified in the afternoon and told the jury that he could not manage to get the rope around Smollett’s neck on the night of the attack. By the time police arrived to question Smollett, it was around his neck – which suggests he put it there himself.
After the attack, Abimbola and Olabinjio flew to Nigeria, in part to audition for the Nigerian version of Big Brother. They would Google the story to see if Smollett had gotten the reaction Abimbola said he craved.
‘Jussie wanted it. He got what he wanted.’
The two Osundairo brothers allege that Smollett set them up to perform the attack. They prayed together before the trial
The brothers and their legal team share a prayer outside court on Thursday in Chicago before heading into the trial
Attorney Dan Webb asked Abimbola during a re-direct examination Thursday, why he and his brother agreed to the attack. Abimbola said that he felt ‘indebted’ to Smollett because he had gotten Abimbola a stand-in role on Empire and felt it could further his acting career.
Instead, Abimbola said, he lost his agent and his acting career is effectively over. On re-cross examination, Allen asked Abimbola who the audience was for the attack.
Abimbola said: ‘According to Jussie, the media.
They also testified about how Jussie solicited them for the attack on January 25, asking them: ‘Can I trust you?’
‘He had this crazy idea of two MAGA Trump supporters attacking him,’ Olabinjio said.
Olabinjio confirmed Smollett wanted them to yell that he was in ‘MAGA Country,’ referring to President Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan. He also wanted the brothers to purchase the red MAGA hats.
The plan, according to Olabinjio, was that he would pour bleach on Smollett while putting a noose around his neck and Abimbola would punch him. They originally considered using gasoline but Smollett eventually deemed it too extreme.
Olabinjio said that Jussie wanted Abimbola to throw the punch because he didn’t trust Olabinjio to hold back his punches.
The relationship between the Abimbola and Jussie was earlier explored in testimony Wednesday by Abimbola’s diet plan for Smollett, on trial for six counts of disorderly conduct over claims he lied to police that he’d suffered a homophobic attack.
Shortly before the attack took place, Smollett asked Abimbola, a fitness expert, to help him get in shape for an upcoming music video shoot, the court heard. That saw the man subsequently held in jail for allegedly attacking Smollett prepare a meal plan that included StarKist tuna, chicken thighs, avocados and shots of apple cider vinegar.
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 consists of five white men, one black man, five white women and one Hispanic woman. There are also two alternatives.
The trial is expected to last until the end of the week.
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