The lead Chicago Police detective in the Jussie Smollett testified at Smollett’s trial Tuesday, explaining how his investigation took a surprising turn.
Smollett lied to Chicago police when he claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. He faces Smollett faces six felony counts of disorderly conduct, each carrying a sentence of up to 3 years if he’s convicted.
Smollett, who is Black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red MAGA hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Police later said Smollett actually paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.
During opening statements on Monday, Smollett’s defense attorney insisted he really was the victim of an attack perpetrated by brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo and claimed police made a “rush to judgment” in accusing Smollett of orchestrating a hoax.
But Chicago Police Detective Michael Theis, a lead investigator in the case who was the first person called to the witness stand in Smollett’s trial, disputed there was any rush to judgment in the case.
Theis walked the jury through exactly how Smollett went from victim to suspect. He said 24 to 26 officers were dedicated to solving the crime Smollett reported, working at it for more than 3,000 hours combined, and reviewing at least 1,500 hours of surveillance video.
“This was horrible. The crime was a hate crime. There was a noose. There was bleach,” Detective Theis testified. “The mayor on down – everybody wanted answers. They wanted to know what happened.”
Police were looking for two men seen in a grainy video as the possible suspects, but detectives did not know who those men were. Then came a major break in the case. Brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo were identified from a rideshare video they took the night of the attack.
Smollett went on national TV and said he was positive the men in the surveillance video were his attackers. Detectives thought they had solved the case.
Once in custody, the brothers told investigators it was all a hoax. Police then spent days trying to determine if the brothers’ story added up.
“At the end of the investigation, we determined the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event and the hate crime did not occur,” Theis said.
From the rope the brothers purchased at the Crafty Beaver – a hardware store near their family home – to the red hats and ski masks purchased with A $100 bill that Smollett allegedly gave them to buy the supplies, to video of Smollett’s car supposedly doing a dry run of the attack, detective Theis said the evidence showed that Smollett orchestrated the attack.
The detective also described Smollett as uncooperative during the investigation, saying he would not hand over his phone and would not provide a cheek swab for DNA to see if his attackers’ DNA was on the rope placed around his neck.
Also Tuesday, the jury saw video evidence showing the movements of both Smollett and the Osundairo brothers – whom the defense claims actually attacked him, but whom police said he paid to help stage the attack. The video shows them not just on the night of the alleged attack, but in the days leading up to it.
The judge in the case has told jurors to be prepared to be in court as late as 7 p.m. each day of the trial, and he expects the trial to wrap up by the end of the week, or early next week at the latest.
Source: CBS News