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Jury to hear more prosecution witnesses detail allegedly phony hate crime on third day of Jussie Smollett's trial

Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO — After a lengthy and at times tense day of testimony Tuesday, jurors in the Jussie Smollett trial are slated to hear from more prosecution witnesses Wednesday at the actor’s trial for allegedly orchestrating and reporting a fake hate crime for attention.

Special prosecutors’ centerpiece witnesses, the two brothers who told police Smollett orchestrated a phony hate-crime attack on himself, have not yet taken the stand.

Smollett is accused of staging the January 2019 attack to gain favor and improve his status with his television show, which has since been canceled.

The actor allegedly told police he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault. Two men he didn’t recognize yelled slurs, poured bleach on him, and put a rope around his neck like a noose, he said.

Jurors spent most of Tuesday hearing from a Chicago police detective who acted as one of the lead investigators in Smollett’s case. Michael Theis detailed the way Smollett turned from victim to suspect as Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo told police Smollett persuaded them to help carry out the phony assault.

 

Theis also walked jurors through extensive surveillance footage from around the time of the January 2019 attack, which he said corroborated the brothers’ story.

On cross-examination, Smollett’s attorney focused repeatedly on what the defense has claimed was tunnel vision by police, who believed the Osundairos’ story over Smollett’s and — according to the defense — missed or ignored key evidence and witnesses. Among them: a woman who happened to be walking her dogs nearby a couple of hours before the attack and reportedly told police she saw a suspicious-looking white guy carrying a rope; and a security guard who claimed he saw a white man in a ski mask run past him around the time of the assault.

The defense also sought to portray the Osundairos as homophobic criminals and drug dealers, noting that police found guns and cocaine in their apartment and apparently anti-gay sentiments on their social media.

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