The criminal trial began last week when prosecutors told the jury that Smollett, who is black and gay, directed two of his acquaintances — brothers Paula and Ola Osondaero — to carry out a fake anti-gay and racist attack on a frigid Chicago night. Near the Smollett apartment building. Five police investigators and the Osondaero brothers testified to prosecutors last week.
Defense attorneys called seven of their own witnesses to testify, which Smollett himself had highlighted. He testified over the course of 8 hours on Monday and Tuesday that he had not planned any such trick, and that he was attacked one night after he went out to get a Subway sandwich.
After closing arguments on Wednesday morning, the jury will be briefed on the law and then sent to deliberation.
The long road to trial
Smollett has repeatedly denied the allegations and his lawyers said he paid the brothers to be his coaches.
Months after the charges were dropped, the judge appointed a special prosecutor to look into the case and investigate whether Smollett had received preferential treatment from the state attorney’s office. Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on new charges in February 2020.
Smollett still faces a civil lawsuit from the city demanding compensation for the cost of investigating his reported attack. He filed a counterclaim in November 2019 that was eventually dismissed.
Important moments in the trial
Paula Osondaero, who was closer to Smollett, told the court that Smollett “wanted me to pretend to beat him.” He said he agreed to do it because he felt indebted to the actor.
Paula Osondaero testified: “I thought it could help advance my acting career.” “He told me we would need someone else to pretend to beat him. He mentioned that my brother could do it. So I said yes.”
His brother Ola Osondaero told the jury that Smollett “had this crazy idea of two MAGA supporters attacking him”, and that he wanted to “spread this on social media”.
“Mr. Smollett asked you to fake attack him?” asked Deputy Special Prosecutor Sam Mindenhall.
Ola Osondaero replied, “Yes.”
Pretending to be Trump supporters? Follow Mendenhall.
“Yes,” said Ola Osondaero.
“So he can then post it on social media?” The prosecutor continued.
Ola Osondaero replied, “Yes.”
According to their plan, the Smollett brothers met at about 2 a.m. near his apartment during a cold spell known as the “polar vortex,” they testified. And there they bore witness, as he commanded, and shouted “Empire, damn it, nothing, Maga,” punched him mock, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck.
“If you haven’t had advanced discussions with Jussie Smollett, how would you know where he would be at 2 AM in a polar vortex?” asked Special Prosecutor Dan Webb.
“I won’t,” replied Paula Osondaero.
However, the defense repeatedly said that Smollett was a real victim of an attack. They have suggested that the two brothers were motivated by homophobia and/or an attempt to intimidate Smollett into hiring them as collateral.
“Have you ever planned a trick?” asked his lawyer.
It never happened in my life, Smollett said.
He also questioned the motives of the true brothers. He said he received a “hate letter” by mail at the Empire studio in Chicago on January 22, 2019, seven days before the alleged attack. Next, Paula Osundairo approached him about becoming his personal security guard, something Osundairo repeatedly asked him about, according to Smollett’s testimony.
In addition, he testified that he had a sexual relationship with Paula Osondaero, but said that he was “crawled” by Ola Osundairo. Paula Osondaero has denied having any sexual relationship with Smollett.
CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Bill Kirkus have reported from Chicago, and Eric Levinson and Steve Almasy have written and written reports from New York and Atlanta. Jason Hanna and Christina Maxuris contributed to this report.