CHICAGO – Besieged ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett was caught on surveillance video taking a ‘test drive’ a day before his alleged hate crime attack, prosecutors said during his trial in Chicago on Tuesday.
Prosecutors argue that the footage confirms the actor rigged the alleged attack on January 29, 2019 with Nigerian brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who are expected to be the prosecution’s main witnesses in the case.
Smollett’s lawyers say the actor was really attacked by the two brothers.
Prosecutors dug a hole in that claim on Tuesday, revealing a text message Smollett sent to one of the siblings weeks after the alleged attack, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Brother… .. I love you,” Smollett wrote to Abimbola Osundairo on February 14, 2019. “I am with you. I know 10,000% that you and your brother haven’t done anything wrong and never would.
“I am making this statement so that everyone knows it,” the text reads. “They won’t get away with this. Please hit me when they let you go. I am completely behind you.
The text came as the two brothers were being questioned in the case.
Retail Chicago Police Officer Michael Theis, the first witness called to the stand, called it unusual.
“To this day, has Mr. Smollett ever been candid about this hate crime? Deputy Special Prosecutor Samuel Mendenhall asked the cop.
“Not that I know of,” Theis replied.
Theis also said Smollett was “not open” to investigators after reporting he was attacked by men using homophobic and racial epithets when they allegedly assaulted him, according to a FoxNews report.
Theis said a team of around two dozen detectives spent around 3,000 hours investigating the actor’s complaint.
“It was horrible,” he said. “I mean the crime was a hate crime, but a horrible hate crime. There was a noose, there was bleach. It was local news. It was national news.
“Everyone wanted to know what had happened, from the mayor to the bottom,” Theis said. “Everyone wanted answers.
But he said Smollett refused to give the cops his medical records or a DNA sample to compare to evidence at the scene.
“At the end of the investigation, we determined that the alleged hate crime was in fact a staged event,” Theis said.
Surveillance footage shows Smollett walking near the stage with the Osundario brothers a day earlier, with the siblings seen taking a cab into a nearby neighborhood.
The two then switched to an Uber and met Smollett, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors during the proceedings.
Prosecutors argue that Smollett paid the siblings $ 3,500 to aid them in the alleged hoax.
Defense lawyer Nenye Uche told jurors that a “real crime” had taken place, saying the Osundarios attacked Smollett because they “didn’t like him as a person”.
Smollett faces three years in prison if convicted of organizing the attack as a publicity stunt.