Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett has denied staging an anti-gay, racist attack on himself in Chicago, testifying at his trial that “there was no hoax”.
Smollett took the stand at his trial on charges he lied to Chicago police about the attack in an attempt to refute damaging testimony from two brothers last week.
They said Smollett, who is gay and black, orchestrated the January 2019 hoax to get publicity, giving them 100 dollars for supplies and instructing them to place a noose around his neck and yell homophobic slurs.
They also said Smollett gave them a 3,500 dollar cheque to carry it out.
But Smollett said he wrote the cheque for nutrition and training advice from one of the brothers, Abimbola Osundairo, while he was going to be out of town, not as payment for Osundairo and his brother to carry out the attack.
Asked by his defence attorney if he gave Osundairo payment for some kind of hoax, Smollett replied: “Never.”
He also said “absolutely not” when asked if he gave Osundairo and his brother 100 dollars to pay for supplies for the hoax.
Smollett also testified that Osundairo told him about an herbal steroid that encourages weight loss but is illegal in the US. He said Osundairo told the actor he could get him some “on the low” — or secretly — while he was on an upcoming trip to Nigeria.
Osundairo testified that Smollett sent him a text message — which the jury saw last week — about talking “on the low,” and that during the conversation Smollett asked him about helping to stage the attack.
Smollett said on Monday that message was in reference to the illegal steroid, and he used language Osundairo had used previously.
Defence attorneys have suggested the brothers were motivated to accuse Smollett of staging the hoax because they disliked him and then saw an opportunity to make money.
They suggested that after the brothers, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, were questioned by police about the alleged attack, they asked Smollett for one million dollars each to not testify against him at trial.
Smollett’s lawyers also have argued that Chicago police rushed to judgment when they brought charges against Smollett, and suggested a third person may have been involved in the attack.
Prosecutors say Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with the Empire studio’s response to hate mail he received.
Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack — one count for each time he gave a report — to three different officers.
The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is convicted he likely would be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.