On January 25, 2019, a few days before Jussie Smollett reported an alleged hate crime attack, he told an acquaintance he “wanted me to beat him up,” the man testified Wednesday.
Abimbola Osundairo, also known as “Bola,” said the “Empire” actor’s comment was puzzling.
“I was confused,” Osundairo continued to testify. “Then he explained he wanted me to fake beat him up.”
Osundairo said he agreed to do it because he felt indebted to the actor.
“I believed he could help further my acting career,” Osundairo testified. “He told me that we would need another person to fake beat him up. He mentioned could my brother do it. I said yes.”
He said the discussion happened in a car as Smollett was driving him home from near the show’s Chicago studio.
Court adjourned for the day at 7 p.m. with Osundairo still on the stand. He was not cross-examined by a defense attorney, but that is expected to happen Thursday morning after court resumes at 9:15 a.m. CT (10:15 a.m. ET).
Smollett, who is Black and gay, has said two men struck him, yelled anti-gay and racist remarks, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him.
Authorities have argued evidence, including texts and accounts from Osundairo and his brother, Olabinjo, point to Smollett paying the pair $3,500 to stage a hate crime attack against him so he could get publicity and a career boost.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty to faces six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly making false reports to police that he was a victim of a hate crime.
Neither of the brothers has been charged with a crime.
In 2019, one of Smollett’s attorneys said he paid the brothers for training services and nutritional advice.
Testimony in Smollett’s trial began Tuesday with police officers describing the extensive investigation into the case.
Osundairo: Plan was discussed while parked in an alley
Abimbola Osundairo testified Wednesday that after the two eventually drove back to the Osundairo residence, they parked in an alley as Olabinjo Osundairo came out to join them in the car.
“We went over the details of what he wanted us to say and do,” Abimbola Osundairo told jurors.
Smollett allegedly told him to say, “Empire, f****t, n***er, MAGA” then the conversation moved to the more physical aspect, he said.
Osundairo testified, “He wants me to attack him, but he wanted me to pull the punch so I don’t hurt him, give him a bruise.” The final part of the plan would be to “pour bleach on him and then he would run away,” Osundairo testified.
“Who was in charge of this thing?” Special Prosecutor Daniel Webb asked.
“Jussie was,” Osundairo told the jury.
Osundairo told Webb that Smollett “wanted to use the fake attack or camera footage for media.”
He said Smollett also told the brothers not to take a rideshare to where they planned to meet so there wouldn’t be a record of their trip.
Osundairo testified that while he didn’t expect payment for helping Smollett stage the attack, the actor still gave him a check for $3,500.
“If he hadn’t given you money, were you going to do the attack for nothing?” Webb asked.
“Yes,” Osundairo replied, saying Smollett was like a brother and he felt he owed the actor.
Osundairo also told the jury that Smollett had instructed him to write a letter in the days after the reported attack in an effort to show sympathy.
“I was supposed to send him a condolence letter, to show that I wasn’t a part of this,” he said.
Osundairo also told the jury that he and Smollett shared private messages on Instagram the night of the attack and the actor kept him updated on the status of his delayed flight to Chicago.
The delay pushed the alleged attack hours back and into the early morning hours of January 29, he said.
Osundairo testified his brother left for Nigeria later on the 29th and Smollett called him to ask whether he and his brother were still on their way.
Hours after that call, after the Osundairo brothers landed in Turkey for a layover, Smollett called him again asking if they were still on their way, he said. Osundairo testified he believed Smollett wanted to know whether they were “alright” and if there were any problems.