Jussie Smollett scheduled meeting ‘On the Low’, paid for supplies, held ‘Dry Run’ before ‘Attack’

CHICAGO (AP) – Two brothers arrested for an alleged attack on Jussie Smollett told Chicago police how the former “Empire” actor orchestrated the scam, telling them via text message to meet him “on the low” and pay for supplies and holding a “dry run” in downtown Chicago, the lead investigator testified Tuesday.

When prosecutors began their case against Smollett, former Chicago police investigator Michael Theis said he initially saw the actor as a victim of a homophobic and racist attack and that police “absolutely” were in no hurry to judge, as Smollett’s defense attorney claimed during the opening statement. Monday.

Theis said about two dozen detectives clocked about 3,000 hours on what they thought was a “horrific hate crime” in January 2019. He said they were thrilled as they were able to track the movements of two suspected attackers using surveillance video and cell phone and rideshare records.

“The crime was a hate crime, a horrible hate crime,” Theis said, noting that Smollett – who is black and gay – reported that his attackers put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. He said the case had become national and international news and that “everyone from the mayor downwards wanted to know what happened,” a reference to then-mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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Smollett is charged with aggravated assault for doing what prosecutors say was a false police report of the alleged attack. The Class 4 crime carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said that if Smollett is convicted, it is likely he will be put to the test and possibly ordered to perform community service.

After police arrested Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo – brothers who also worked on the “Empire” set – when they returned to Chicago from Nigeria, the men said Smollett would stage the attack because he was unhappy with how the TV studio handled hate mail from the actor. had received, Theis said. He said investigators checked the brothers’ report – including that the actor picked them up days before the attack and drove them around the area of ​​downtown where he lived and talked about what would happen – and confirmed their version of events using GPS , cell phone records and video evidence. Police found no cases where they concluded the men were lying, he added.

Jurors were shown surveillance videos of the brothers buying supplies, including a red hat, which they told police Smollett wanted them to wear to look like supporters of then-President Donald Trump, and a piece of clothesline was later shaped into the loop. Juries also saw a still image from a video that Theis said showed Smollett returning home the night of the alleged attack with the clothesline draped around his shoulders. The clothesline was wrapped around his neck when officers arrived, Theis said, leading detectives to believe Smollett may have hit it back.

“At the conclusion of the investigation, we determined that the alleged hate crime was in fact a staged event,” Theis said, and the Osundairo brothers were released.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche said during opening remarks late Monday that Smollett “is a real victim” and that the brothers attacked Smollett because they did not like him “because of who he is.”

On Tuesday, Uche suggested that the brothers were homophobic, and asked Theis at cross-examination about a homophobic word used by one of the brothers. Theis said there was a message that contained a spell, but that he did not know if that made the man homophobic. Uche also asked Theis if he was aware that one of the brothers was attacking someone in the TV studio because he was gay.

“Someone said it happened, but I do not know it happened,” Theis said.

Uche also tried to discredit the police investigation, suggesting that detectives ignored possible clues. And he said a $ 3,500 check that the actor paid to the brothers was for personal training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not to perform the scam, as the prosecutors claim. Theis said Tuesday that the note on the check said it was for “nutrition” and “exercise.”

The brothers will stand at the witness stand during the trial, but it is unknown if Smollett will testify.

Uche has portrayed siblings as unreliable and said that when police searched their home, they found heroin and weapons.

“They’re going to lie to your face,” Uche told the jury Monday.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors that Smollett told police he was attacked by Trump supporters, inciting political divisions across the country.

“When he reported the fake hate crime, it was a real crime,” Webb said.

Webb said Smollett believed the TV studio did not take hate letters he received seriously. Police have not determined who wrote the letter, which contained a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree and “MAGA,” a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan. Webb said Smollett asked the brothers to shout racial and homophobic slander and “MAGA” during the staged attack.

Uche also suggested that a third striker was involved. A resident of the area said she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night, according to police reports. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, “she could see hanging out from under his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Her comments could support Smollett’s claim that his attackers draped a temporary loop around his neck. Furthermore, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements – widely ridiculed because the brothers are black – that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.

Uche referred to the woman during his cross-examination of Theis on Tuesday, and Theis admitted he saw that statement but did not send a detective to re-interview her.

“We did not get a chance,” he said, explaining that the woman had seen the man a few hours before the incident and that “the rope had a different color.”

Outside the courtroom, Smollett’s brother said it has been “incredibly painful” for the family to see Smollett being charged with something he “did not do.”

“We trust his legal team and we look forward to hearing the facts of this case,” said Jojo Smollett.

Twelve jurors plus two deputies were sworn in Monday to hear the case, which Judge James Linn expects will last about a week.

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