Embattled “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was caught on surveillance video doing a “dry run” one day before his alleged hate crime attack, prosecutors said at his trial in Chicago Tuesday.
Prosecutors contend the footage confirms the actor faked the Jan. 29, 2019, alleged attack with Nigerian brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who are expected to be key witnesses for the prosecution in the case.
Smollett’s lawyers claim— by the two brothers.
Prosecutors poked a hole in that claim Tuesday, revealing a text message sent by Smollett to one of the siblings a couple of weeks after the alleged attack,.
“Brother…..I love you,” Smollett wrote to Abimbola Osundairo on Feb. 14, 2019. “I stand with you. I know 10000% you and your brother did nothing wrong and never would.”
“I am making this statement so everyone else knows,” the text said. “They will not get away with this. Please hit me when they let you go. I am behind you fully.”
The text came as the two brothers were being questioned in the case.
Chicago Police Det. Michael Theis, the first witness called to the stand, called it unusual.
“To this day, has Mr. Smollett ever come clean about this hate crime?” deputy special prosecutor Samuel Mendenhall asked the cop.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Theis responded.
Theis also said that Smollett was “not forthcoming” with investigators after he reported that he was attacked by men using homophobic and racial epithets while they allegedly assaulted him,.
Theis said a squad of about two dozen detectives logged some 3,000 hours investigating the actor’s claim.
“This was horrible,” he testified. “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 happened, from the mayor on down,” Theis said. “Everybody wanted answers.”
But he said Smollett refused to give 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 actually a staged event,” Theis testified.
The surveillance footage shows Smollett walking near the scene with the Osundario brothers a day earlier, with the siblings seen taking a cab to a nearby neighborhood.
The two then switched to an Uber and met up with Smollett, special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors during the proceedings.
Prosecutors contend that Smollett paid the siblings $3,500 to help in the alleged hoax.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche told jurors a “real crime” took place, claiming that the Osundarios attacked Smollett because they “did not like him as a person.”
Smollett faces six years in prison if convicted of staging the attack as a publicity stunt.
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