Dec. 6 (UPI) — Actor Jussie Smollett took the stand in his own defense as his trial entered its second week on Monday, saying he had a sexual relationship with one of the brothers he is accused of paying to stage a fake hate crime against him.
The former “Empire” television star, who is accused of staging a phony and racially- and sexually-charged assault in 2019 and then reporting it to police, told the court Monday that he met Abimbola “Bola” Osundairo, 28, at a club during Season 4 of Empire before going to a bathhouse in Chicago where they used drugs and kissed.
“There was some touching,” Smollett told jurors.
He testified that the two kissed again and masturbated next to each other at a separate bathhouse encounter.
Abimbola Osundairo told the court that he was “good friends” with Smollett after meeting him as an extra on Empire before the actor arranged the attack. He denied being aware of any sexual tension between himself and Smollett.
In his testimony last week, Osundairo, a bodybuilder, said he would procure drugs for Smollett and prepared a nutrition and exercise plan for the actor, who in turn would help him to further his own acting career.
The pair would also drive around and smoke marijuana in what Smollett described as part of his creative process.
Osundairo added that days before the planned assault, Smollett texted him to arrange a meeting and gave him $100 to purchase supplies, telling him and his brother, Olabinjo Osundairo, to attack him.
Abimbola Osundairo last week testified Smollett gave him a check for $3,500, which said he believed was for the attack as well as the nutrition plan.
Smollett testified Monday that he asked Abimbola Osundairo to procure him herbal steroids from Nigeria to help prevent gaining weight in his face and stomach, stating how important his physical fitness was to his career.
“My character was a superstar, a pop star, a beloved GQ whatever,” he said. “It was very important that I looked like Black Cary Grant, not beat down.”
Referencing a text he sent to Abimbola Osundairo asking for help “on the low,” Smollett said he was referring to the herbal steroids which are illegal in the United States.
He added he rarely discussed payment with the bodybuilder for his assistance.
“Basically I turned to him and said, you should just be my trainer,” Smollett said.
Smollett also testified that Abimbola Osundairo repeatedly asked to be his security guard after a “hate letter” was sent to him in the mail at the “Empire” studios.
“To me it became a running joke when he would say he was security every time we went out. It wasn’t something that was going to be,” he said.
The actor also denied ever texting the bodybuilder about setting up any hoax.
“There was no hoax,” he said.
Smollett testified that he did not believe he could trust Olabinjo Osundairo, stating that he “didn’t even know his name.”
“He kind of creeped me out,” Smollett said. “Every time we were around him he didn’t speak to me. Every time we needed to leave, he made it seem like we needed to sneak off.”
Describing the night of the attack, Smollett said he rolled a marijuana cigarette but did not smoke it before going to Walgreens for eggs.
After finding the pharmacy closed, Smollett testified that he decided to go to Subway when he heard someone shout “Empire!” at him.
“I get that all the time … no shade but I just don’t respond to that,” he said.
Smollett said the person began to shout slurs at him, at which point he turned around “infuriated not even thinking” as he noticed “someone that felt massive just coming up to me, not enough time to even think.”
Smollett got down from the witness stand and acted out the attack before the jury, stating he slipped on ice and wrestled the two attackers to the ground before he was kicked on his right side and the two attackers got away.
As he got up and collected his belongings, Smollett said he noticed a rope around his neck, stating he hadn’t felt it during the scuffle.
Smollett added that he did not immediately call the police because “as a Black man in America, I don’t trust the police, I’m sorry.”
He added he did not want to be portrayed negatively in the media for getting beaten up.
The brothers testified that Smollett had them set up the attack because he was dissatisfied with the way the Empire studio responded to his concerns about his security.
Smollett said Monday he never had an issue with the studio, testifying he began his work on “Empire” making $25,000 per episode.
Although it’s typically unusual for a defendant to testify in their own defense, some observers say Smollett’s case is anything but typical.
David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law, told WLS-TV that Smollett’s testimony, in fact, might be his best chance to persuade the jury.
“I think they just want to hear his story and if they don’t, the only one they’ve got is the prosecution’s story,” Erickson said.
Judge James Linn told jurors last week that he expected to turn over the case on Monday or Tuesday.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty to six counts relating to filing a false police report.