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7 Dec, 2021 00:50

Smollett denies race hoax, claims sexual relationship with one of his accusers

Smollett denies race hoax, claims sexual relationship with one of his accusers

Chicago actor Jussie Smollett has denied accusations that he paid two Nigerian brothers to help him stage a fake crime in January 2019, saying a $3,500 check he gave the men was for diet and exercise advice.

“There was no hoax,” Smollett said on Monday, as he took the stand in his trial on six felony charges stemming from allegedly false reports he made to police. His lawyers have suggested the brothers had accused the ‘Empire’ star of orchestrating his own assault as part of a plot to extort $2 million from him.

Lawyer Nenye Uche claimed last week that the two men had been motivated by homophobia and their dislike of Smollett, who is gay and black. But the actor testified on Monday that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with one of the brothers, Abimbola Osundairo, who had worked on the set of ‘Empire,’ and had taken drugs with him. He added that he had met Olabinjo Osundairo but hadn’t trusted him, and said he had “kind of freaked me out.”

The Osundairos had previously testified that Smollett had paid them $3,500 to carry out the fake attack on him, and had given them $100 to buy bleach and rope with which to make a noose. The brothers were caught on surveillance video buying the supplies, including a red cap so they would resemble supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Jurors were shown a video of Smollett and the Osundairos staging an alleged “dry run” days before the attack.

Smollett had described his attackers to police as two white men, and had said they had yelled anti-gay and racist slurs at him, as well as proclaiming, “This is MAGA country” during the 2am assault. He had alleged they had thrown bleach on him and put a noose around his neck, which he had still been wearing when officers arrived at his apartment about an hour after the attack.

The story made international headlines, with media outlets and Democrat politicians pouncing on the incident as an example of rampant bigotry and hate crimes in Donald Trump’s America. Smollett subsequently gave a tearful interview to ABC News anchor Robin Roberts, expressing his outrage that some people doubted his story and suggesting his attackers had been motivated by his public criticism of the then-president.

Smollett added that he would have faced less skepticism if he had said his attackers were Muslim, Hispanic, or black. “It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth,” he told Roberts. “You don’t even want to see the truth.”

The actor told the court he had received a text from CNN anchor Don Lemon during the early stages of the investigation into the alleged hate crime, according to Fox News’ court reporter Matt Finn. Lemon had purportedly relayed to Smollett the information that investigators did not believe his version of events.

Lemon told viewers back in 2019 that he had first met Smollett while shooting a cameo for ‘Empire’. He said there had been certain questions in the gay community and among people of color as to the “veracity” of Smollett’s claims. “A lot of people were reasonably skeptical about Jussie’s story. Some of the details just didn’t seem to make sense,” the journalist said.

After two dozen detectives spent about 3,000 man-hours investigating what was initially believed to be a high-profile hate crime, they concluded Smollett was lying. The city of Chicago sued the actor in April 2019, alleging false reports and demanding he pay back more than $130,000 in investigation costs.

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