Defense claimed a third person participated in the alleged attack.
The jury for the former Empire actor Jussie Smollett trial viewed a damning piece of evidence on Tuesday: Smollett and the brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo did a “dry run” of the alleged hate crime in Chicago on a cold January night.
The three of them supposedly did the dry run a day before Smollett claimed two white males attacked him, threw a rope around his neck as they yelled racial and homophobic slurs, and yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
Smollett’s unraveled from the beginning. Chicago Police Det. Michael Theis, the first prosecution witness, recalled how the department dedicated two dozen detectives to the case. They logged in 3,000 hours to investigate the crime.
Theis said the brothers accused Smollett of wanting to stage the attack “because he was unhappy about how the TV studio handled hate mail” he received:
He said investigators checked out the brothers’ account — including that the actor picked them up days before the attack and drove them around the downtown neighborhood where he lived and talked about what would happen — and corroborated their version of events using GPS, cellphone records and video evidence. Police found no instance where they concluded the men were lying, he added.
“At the end of the investigation, we determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event,” Theis said, and the Osundairo brothers were released.
The jury saw videos of the brothers buying supplies and a still photograph of Smollett with the clothesline around his neck as returned home.
Then the prosecution unveiled a piece of evidence never revealed to the public. On February 14, 2019, Smollett allegedly sent a text to Abimbola after the police questioned him:
“Brother….I love you,” read Smollett’s text to Abimbola Osundairo on the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2019. “I stand with you. I know 1000% you and your brother did nothing wrong and never would. I am making this statement so everyone else knows. They will not get away with this. Please hit me when they let you go. I am behind you fully.”
The text, which had never before been made public, was shown to jurors Tuesday on the second day of Smollett’s trial on charges that he hired Osundairo and his younger brother, Olabinjo, to commit a phony racist and homophobic attack on Smollett in January 2019.
Testifying as the first witness for prosecutors, Chicago police Detective Michael Theis, one of the lead investigators on the Smollett case, noted the unusual nature of Smollett’s insistence that he was “making a statement” about the brothers’ innocence, which he had never done before publicly, either before or since.
“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 replied.
The timing of the text was crucial, as it could easily be construed as an attempt by Smollett to get the brothers to keep quiet.
Good Morning America aired its interview with Smollett that morning where he detailed the alleged hate crime attack. Tears and all.
Despite the text message, defense attorney Nenye Yche claimed the brothers are liars and homophobic. He also said a third attacker might be involved:
Uche also suggested that a third attacker was involved. One area resident said she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night, according to police reports. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”
Uche referenced the woman during his cross-examination of Theis on Tuesday, and Theis acknowledged that he saw that statement but did not send a detective to re-interview her. He said the woman had seen the man a few hours before the alleged attack and that “the rope was a different color.”
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