CHICAGO — The man Jussie Smollett allegedly paid to help him stage a hate crime took the stand in the actor’s criminal trial Wednesday, describing how he took part in the hoax because he thought the ‘”Empire” star could help push his own acting career.
Abimbola Osundairo, 28, told jurors in Chicago’s criminal court on day three of the trial how Smollett directed nearly every aspect of the alleged fake attack, from the racial and homophobic slurs him 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 and his brother are at the center of the sensational trial as the prosecution’s star witnesses after they told police they were paid $3,500 to help the former “Empire” star stage the hate crime on a frigid night in January 2019. Smollett’s team denies the allegations and said the men intended to attack him.
Smollett is facing six counts of felony disorderly conduct for lying to police and if convicted, faces up to three years in jail.
Abimbola, who also worked on the set of “Empire,” testified that he and Smollett met through mutual friends 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.
Around 9 a.m. on January 25, 2019, Abimbola 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, Smollett picked Abimbola up and from the front seat of the actor’s Mercedes Benz, the infamous plan was hatched, he testified.
“He asked me if he could trust me and I replied, I said ‘yes’ and then he talked about how the studio was not taking the mail seriously, the hate mail he’d received earlier,” Abimbola said, referencing a threatening letter Smollett claimed was sent to him at the “Empire” studio.
“I was confused, I looked puzzled and then he explained that he wanted me to fake beat him up,” he continued. “He told me that we would need another person to fake beat him up and he mentioned could my brother do it? I said yes.”
Smollett then drove Abimbola back towards his neighborhood where they picked up his brother.
“He told Ola he would want us to fake beat him up, then we went over the details of what he wanted us to say and do,” Abimbola testified.
“He first mentions the words that he wanted us to say to him, such as ‘Empire’, ‘f—-t’, ‘n—-r’, ‘MAGA’ then he said he wants me to attack him. He wanted me to punch him but he wanted me to pull the punch so I didn’t hurt him,” he continued.
“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.”
Within ten minutes, the plans were laid and a dress rehearsal was set for two days later, Abimbola told jurors.
From across the room, Smollett, wearing a light blue shirt and burgundy tie, furrowed his brow as he watched Abimbola testify about the alleged “dry run.”
On Sunday, January 27, the day before the attack was set to take place, Abimbola said Smollett picked up the two brothers and brought them to his neighborhood where he pointed out the exact location he wanted the alleged hoax to go down.
“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,” Abimbola said.
When asked by special prosecutor Dan Webb why he wanted the attack captured, Abimbola testified Smollett “wanted to use the camera footage for media.”
Repeatedly, Webb asked Abimbola why he agreed to partake in the hoax and he answered that he felt he owed Smollett.
“I mentioned to Ola that I did feel indebted to Jussie and that he’s helped me out and he could actually further our acting career and Ola agreed,” Abimbola said of the moment.
Webb continued to question him late Wednesday.
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