One of the men Jussie Smollett paid to help him stage a fake hate crime took the stand in the former Empire actor’s criminal trial Wednesday, describing how he took part in the hoax because he thought Smollett could help him with his own acting career.
28-year-old Abimbola Osundairo told jurors on day three of the trial how Jussie Smollett directed nearly every aspect of the fake attack, from the racial and homophobic slurs he and his brother, Olabinjo, were to use down to who should throw the punches.
“He explained that he wanted me to fake beat him up,” Osundairo testified.
“I agreed to do it because most importantly, I felt indebted to him, to Jussie,” Osundairo said “He also got me a stand-in role on ‘Empire’ and I also believed that he could help further my acting career.”
Osundairo, who also worked on the set of “Empire,” testified that he and Smollett met through a mutual friend in 2017 and over the next year and a half became extremely close as they spent time together smoking weed, visiting strip clubs and having sleepovers at the star’s Streeterville high-rise.
“I would call him my brother,” Osundairo testified, adding Smollett would ask him to procure weed, cocaine and molly for him.
Around 9 a.m. on January 25, 2019, Osundairo said he received a curious text message from Smollett asking for his help “on the low” and if he was available to meet up “face-to-face” to discuss.
Later that afternoon, he picked Osundairo up and from the front seat of the actor’s Mercedes Benz, the infamous plan was hatched and Smollett was both the star and the director.
First, Jussie Smollett asked Osundairo if he “could trust” him and then lamented the studio’s response to a disturbing piece of hate mail he claimed he received that showed a stick figure hanging and the words “You will die black f-g.”
“He talked about how the studio was not taking the mail seriously, the hate mail he’d received earlier,” Osundairo said. “I was confused, I looked puzzled and then he explained that he wanted me to fake beat him up.”
Smollett asked if Osundairo’s brother could help and then explained his vision for the stunt. He first told the brothers the specific words he wanted them to use — “‘Empire’, f—-t, n—-r, MAGA” — and then gave blow-by-blow instructions.
“He wanted me to punch him but he wanted me to pull the punch so I didn’t hurt him and then he wanted me to tussle him and throw him to the ground and give him a bruise,” he said.
“Then he wanted it to look like he was fighting back, so I was supposed to give him a chance to fight back and then eventually throw him to the ground and my brother would tie the noose around his neck and pour bleach on him.”
Jussie told the brothers not to bring their mobile phones just in case they dropped them and lost them and ordered them not to use a rideshare service to prevent any record of their location. Should news of the attack get picked up by the press, Smollett directed Osundairo to send him a phony “condolence letter,” which he later did when the hate crime inevitably became front-page news.
Within ten minutes, the plans were laid and a dress rehearsal was set for two days later, Osundairo told jurors.
From across the room, Smollett, wearing a dark suit, light blue shirt, and burgundy tie, furrowed his brow as he watched Osundairo testify about the “dry run” and kept his eyes trained on his former friend.
On Sunday, January 27, the day before the attack was set to take place, Smollett picked up the two brothers and brought them to his neighborhood where he pointed out the exact location he wanted the hoax to go down, Osundairo testified.
“He said that there was going to be a camera to capture the fake attack, that he wanted a camera to capture the fake attack,” Osundairo said.
Asked by special prosecutor Dan Webb why he wanted the attack captured, Osundairo testified Smollett “wanted to use the camera footage for media.”
When the plan was finally carried out around 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019, the camera Smollett hoped would capture the attack was pointed in another direction but just about everything else went according to plan. The brothers delivered their lines, roughed Smollett up and fled the area, only to be arrested a little over two weeks later.
Outside of the courtroom on Wednesday evening, Jussie Smollett kept a frown on his face as he exited the building flanked by supporters and didn’t answer a question asking what he thought about Osundairo’s testimony.