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The evidence that Jussie Smollett staged his own hate crime was ‘overwhelming’, according to the judge in his case


By Megan Burns
11th Mar 2022

Fox

The evidence that Jussie Smollett staged his own hate crime was ‘overwhelming’, according to the judge in his case

Yesterday, the 'Empire' actor received 150 days in jail and 30 months probation after being found guilty of faking a hate crime on himself. Here is all the evidence that led to his conviction.

Actor Jussie Smollett has been convicted of filing a false police report in 2019, when he claimed he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men, who later testified that Smollett paid them to carry out the attack. 

The star, known for his role in the TV show Empire, never strayed from his story that although he knew the two men, he did not ask them to attack him, claiming that money he paid them was for personal training services. 

In December, a jury took nine hours to reach its decision, but ultimately concluded that he was guilty. The judge in the case agreed that the evidence against him was “overwhelming”, starting back with his original dealings with police. 

He also said that the actor’s lies had led to a huge investigation that took up a serious amount of police time and resources.

Yesterday, the disgraced actor was sentenced, given 150 days in prison and 30 months probation, as well as being ordered to pay over $120,000 in restitution and a fine of $25,000.

During the sentencing Judge James Linn referred to the actor as “profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic,” and noted that Smollett did “damage to real hate crimes victims”.

Smollett, who claimed his innocence once again in court yesterday, has the right to appeal.

Reports of an attack 

In January 2019, Jussie Smollett told police he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack near his home in Chicago. He said that the attackers were white Trump supporters, shouting “This is MAGA country”, and putting a noose around his neck. 

In the following weeks, Smollett made several public appearances speaking about the attack, including on Good Morning America.

However, three weeks later, the police concluded that Jussie Smollett had organised the attack himself, as brothers Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo who he had worked with on Empire as extras, told police that they had been paid by Smollett to carry out the attack.

They believed he was upset about the amount he was paid on Empire, and wanted to raise his profile.

A re-investigation

In March 2019, Smollett’s charges were dropped as long as he agreed to forfeit a bond of $10,000 and perform community service, which he did. However, in June concerns were raised about this decision. 

Judge Michael Toomin ordered that a special prosecutor be appointed to independently investigate how the case was handled, and Daniel Webb was appointed prosecutor, who has a history of looking into corrupt judges, police officers and other public officials.

The trial

Jussie Smollett’s trial began in November 2021, where he had been indicted on six charges, to all of which he pleaded ‘not guilty’. 

In the trial, prosecuters pointed to the fact that Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo told the police that the actor had paid them $3,500 to orchestrate the attack, telling them to shout specific racist and homophobic comments, and place a noose over his neck. 

Smollett denied this, saying any contact and payment he had with the brothers was connected to personal training and diet services. He knew the brothers, and had gotten them parts as extras on Empire

Planning

One text message in particular from Smollett to Abimbola Osundairo four days before the attack was focused on by prosecutors, which read: “Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?”. 

Jussie Smollett argued he simply wanted help getting an illegal herbal steroid from Nigeria, but Abimbola Osundairo testified that when they met, the actor asked him to beat him up. 

CCTV footage shows Smollett and the two brothers driving around Chicago on the same day. Smollett testified that he and Abimbola Osundairo had just been smoking marijuana while Olabinjo drove, but the brothers testified that they were planning the attack. 

Hours before the attack, Smollett sent a text message to Abimbola Osundairo to let him know a flight he was on had been delayed, which prosecutors argued was because it meant they needed to push back the time of the attack. Smollett said it was because the two had plans to work out together. 

The attack

The attack itself happened around 2am close to Smollett’s apartment building. Various CCTV cameras captured the brothers running from the scene, although not the attack itself. 

The brothers said that they had yelled racial and homophobic slurs at Smollett, hit him but tried not to seriously injure him, poured bleach on him, and threw a rope around his neck.

Jussie Smollett returned to his apartment where his creative director called the police. Police body camera footage shows that he still had the rope around his neck when they entered his apartment. 

He told them that he did so because “I just wanted you all to see”, later saying in court that he had initially taken it off, but his creative director suggested he should put it back on. 

In his report of the attack to police, Smollett told them that although the men were wearing masks, he could tell at least one of them was white, which later turned out not to be the case. 

The actor’s defence pointed to a text sent by Abimbola Osundairo the morning after the attack which read: “Bruh say it ain’t true. I’m praying for a speedy recovery.”, saying that this pointed to the fact that the attack was not a hoax. 

Osundairo however testified that he had been instructed by Smollett to send a “condolence text” once local news had reported the events. 

The brothers said they agreed to the attack as they felt indebted to Smollett for helping them get roles as extras on Empire. The defence said that the pair wanted to scare the actor into hiring him as security.