Jussie Smollett’s trial wound up being about as bizarre as the crime he stood accused of: lying to Chicago cops about a racist, homophobic attack he allegedly staged on himself for attention.
Naturally, the oddness continued into Wednesday, when prosecutors and Smollett’s defense attorneys made their closing arguments.
At one point, Nenye Uche, Smollett’s defense attorney, compared the actor’s alleged attackers to Pablo Escobar, the Columbian drug lord, since police said a small amount of cocaine was found in their home, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Uche also questioned why one of the two brothers who allegedly jumped Smollett went to the bathroom so often during his testimony, which was a major component of the trial, according to the New York Post.
“What’s he doing in the bathroom?” Uche asked, according to the Post.
Smollett’s case—which engendered a wave of sympathy when the public considered the attack to be a hate crime and an onslaught of outrage when cops countered it was a hoax—played out over six days of testimony. Prosecutors set out to portray Smollett, the ex-“Empire” actor, as being so upset with the way his studio handled a threatening letter that he allegedly took it upon himself to hire two brothers to beat him up, put a noose around his neck, and pour bleach on him, all while shouting racist and homophobic slurs as well as “This is MAGA country” in a January 2019 encounter.
On the other hand, Smollett’s attorneys—and Smollett himself—attempted to undermine that allegation by saying the brothers, who served as lead witnesses for the prosecution, were deeply untrustworthy, self-interested, and scammy. One of them, Olabinjo, was possibly homophobic, or at the very least creepy, Smollett and his attorneys argued. And the other brother, Abimbola Osundairo, was maybe in a romantic relationship with Smollett, who, for some reason, told jurors they had masturbated and done drugs, like cocaine, together. (Abimbola said they never dated.)
Smollett’s attorneys argued Wednesday that the Osundairo brothers had possibly attacked the actor because they didn’t like him, due to a combination of self-hatred and homophobia, or even to convince him to hire them as security. Furthermore, the defense said, the $3,500 check the jury saw from Smollett to the brothers wasn’t for the attack but for a meal and workout plan that included directions to eat StarKist tuna and avocados.
Essentially, each side was accused of behaving in a deeply strange, if not irrational, way outside of the courtroom, then lying while within it.
“Mr. Smollett went on that witness stand, took an oath to tell the truth, and made many, many false statements to you,” Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said Wednesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “He lied to you as jurors.”
Webb walked jurors through Smollett’s case in an attempt to highlight gaps or contradictions, saying the actor would’ve handed police necessary evidence—like his cellphone, or a DNA sample—if “he was a true victim of a crime,” according to the Associated Press.
Also, Webb said surveillance footage showed Smollett driving the brothers around before the attack for a “dry run,” circling Smollett’s apartment building multiple times, though Smollett said he was picking them up for a workout until he determined he didn’t want to work out with Olabinjo and canceled, the AP reported.
Uche, the defense attorney for Smollett, said the case wasn’t nearly as clear-cut as the prosecution made it out to be.
“The entire prosecution case was built like a house of cards,” Uche said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “And we all know what happens to a house of cards when you apply a little pressure. It crumbles.”
Uche noted Smollett often drove around smoking weed, saying prosecutors didn’t want to show footage of him doing that mundane activity, which would somehow disprove their allegations about the “dry run,” according to the AP. Uche also said much of the prosecution’s case relied on testimony from the Osundairo brothers, whom he depicted as sneaky masterminds out for some quick cash.
“You have to have your guard up with them mentally, emotionally, even spiritually,” Uche said, according to the Tribune. “They are highly intelligent, really smart, and they know how to dumb it down so you think they’re victims.”
As for not turning over certain evidence to police, Uche said Smollett was concerned for his privacy and provided the FBI with a DNA sample after he received the threatening letter, the Tribune reported.
“This case is crazy,” Uche told the jurors, according to the Chicago Tribune. “And there a lot that has been said, a lot of assumptions. And it’s been real tough. You have the power. You are the ones to decide whether this makes sense.”
Smollett faces six counts of disorderly conduct to which he’s pleaded not guilty. Experts have said he’s unlikely to face any prison time, according to the AP.
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