He decided to testify. The American actor Jussie Smollett firmly denied Monday during his trial to have staged in 2019 in Chicago a false racist and homophobic assault of which he would have been the victim and which had caused a wave of indignation at the time in the country.
“It was not a hoax,” said the actor at the helm, according to local media, denying having spoken “at one time or another of a hoax” with his alleged accomplices.
Afro-American, gay comedian, fallen television star Empire, is accused of having “planned” the assault on January 29, 2019 by paying $ 3,500 for two brothers of Nigerian origin, and of having then lied to the police. The trial opened last Monday with very limited media coverage, the judge having banned the majority of the proceedings from being televised despite restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the prosecution, the actor wanted to advance his career and criticized the production studios for not reacting after receiving a letter of threats. But according to his lawyers, Jussie Smollett was assaulted by two money-motivated men, one of whom was homophobic. He faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
In a long-awaited testimony, the actor explained that the sum was to pay for a training and nutrition program devised by one of the brothers, who then tried unsuccessfully to get himself hired as a bodyguard after the letter of threats.
He then mimed, with his lawyer, the fight by playing the role of one of his attackers, explaining later having accepted under pressure from his employers an interview with a major television channel.
Jussie Smollett has always claimed to have been attacked in a city street by two supporters of President Donald Trump, who allegedly used racist and homophobic slurs and put a noose around his neck. The case had caused a shock in a country still strongly marked by racial and sexual discrimination.
The telesurveillance images, the examination of the telephone data of the three men and videos, however, quickly sowed doubt among the investigators who had concluded that there was a staging. The prosecutor’s indictment and defense pleadings are expected this week, before the jury’s deliberations.
“I was supposed to hit him but not too hard”
Last week, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo claimed to have been paid to stage this fake assault. According to Abimbola Osundairo, the actor “spoke of the studios which did not take the letter of threats seriously”. “Then he told me he wanted me to hit him, and I was supposed to hit him but not too hard,” he said.
He accepted because he felt indebted to the actor, thanks to whom he had obtained a small role in the series and who could help him in his career. He also denied having had a romantic relationship with Jussie Smollett.
Olabinjo Osundairo for his part detailed how the actor would have informed him of his plans in detail, in particular the insults to be uttered. The two brothers had fled to Nigeria after the assault. They were arrested on their return to Chicago in mid-February.