Jussie Smollett took the witness stand Monday at his trial in Chicago on charges of staging a racist, anti-gay attack and then lying to the Chicago Police Department about it. On the trial’s sixth day, the defense called its final witnesses to the stand: Anthony Moore, a security guard working at the Grand Sheraton, near the attack, and Bretty Mahoney, a showrunner for Empire during its last few seasons.
Around noon, Smollett entered the courtroom and took the stand. Lead defense attorney Nenye Uche began by questioning Smollett about his childhood and upbringing — when asked whether he grew up a wealthy child star, Smollett testified that he was a “child actor” and did not grow up rich. Uche also asked about Smollett’s family, who have been present at the trial every day. The star testified that he grew up in a close-knit family of six children.
Uche then moved to Smollett’s role on the show Empire. Smollett said he auditioned for the role of a gay singer because he had never seen a Black man portrayed that way; he had come to terms with his own sexuality in his early twenties when he got involved with nonprofits, including one that fights AIDS in the Black community. By Season Five, Smollett testified that he was making $100,000 per episode. He said he met Abimbola Osundairo, one of the brothers who allegedly attacked Smollett, at a club in 2017, where he learned that Osundairo was a background actor on Empire.
Smollett testified that the two became friends, often doing drugs like cocaine, or smoking pot together. On two occasions, they went to a bathhouse together where they “made out,” he said. When asked if he regrets doing drugs, Smollett testified that he does, and that the reason for doing them was to cope with the immense pressure he was under as an actor — pressure he said he was under “more than any other cast member.”
Uche continued to ask about the circumstances in which Smollett and Osundairo did drugs together. Smollett testified that he and Osundairo often drove around smoking weed in the Mercedes seen in surveillance footage driving to the scene of the reported attack. The defense established that it was not out of the ordinary for the two to hang out together, drive around and smoke weed in that area. This seemed to be an attempt to debunk prosecutors’ theory that when surveillance footage caught Smollett and Osundairo together driving around, it was a dry run of the attack.
Smollett also testified that Abimbola Osundairo’s brother, Ola, did not like him. He still asked Abimbola to train him to get in shape for an upcoming music video and because showrunner Lee Daniels told him he needed to. Smollett was seen huddling with and embracing family members after the court broke for a 45-minute lunch break.
This is a developing story.