Prosecutor Dan Webb rose to question witness Jussie Smollett, the actor accused of faking an assault for publicity in early 2019.
Courtroom 700 at George Leighton Criminal Courthouse on the West Side of Chicago, was a very different place to the intersection where Smollett was allegedly attacked by two men.
Webb asked the defendant. Did you testify to the jury that you left your apartment at 2am on a chilly morning on January 29, 2019, to get eggs at a Walgreens store?
Yes, Smollett replied, because my trainer asked me to eat four eggs before next day’s workout, and I thought the Walgreens store was open 24/7.
However, that Walgreens store near your apartment was never 24/7—you didn’t know that after living in the neighborhood for two years? Webb inquired.
I don’t know. How would I know that? I thought it was 24/7, Smollett said.
On Dec. 6, Smollett was on the witness stand for almost six hours, explaining to the jury that he never planned, or carried out, the alleged assault hoax as claimed by prosecutors.
He appeared relaxed and smiled a lot, confidently looking the jury in the eyes.
On Dec. 7, it was prosecutor’s turn to cross examine Smollett. Webb raised doubt on many points in Smollett’s story, including the part that had to do with the night of the attack.
Smollett said he went out that night to get eggs, while prosecutors alleged Smollett went out specifically to carry out the hoax.
According to surveillance videos—days before the alleged assault—Smollett picked up the two accused attackers, Abimbola Osundairo and Ola Osundairo, and drove them around his apartment at least three times. Each time stopping at a particular intersection for seconds.
Webb questioned Smollett on why he would stop three times at the intersection where the attack later would take place—other than to plan it?
Smollett said he often drove around with friends and that was not unusual. I don’t know, he added.
On Dec. 7, Smollett appeared sleepy and occasionally yawned. He seemed eager to defend himself, repeatedly finishing his answers with “there was no fake attack.”
Judge James Linn reminded Smollett a few times to simply answer Webb’s question and not add anything of his own.
Linn said he understood how hard it was for Smollett to take the stand.
Webb also questioned Smollett on why he refused to furnish phone records, medical records, and his DNA information, to Chicago police detectives to help them find the attackers.
If this was a true crime, Webb asked, you would surely cooperate with the police, wouldn’t you?
Smollett said he wanted to protect his privacy. He said he also had trust issues with the police.
Now, the jury has to decide whether Smollett’s own testimony—the most important witness testimony on the defense side—had the weight to raise a reasonable doubt about his alleged crime.
Smollett was charged in 2019 of faking an assault under Illinois’ disorderly conduct statue, which covers offenses ranging from making prank 911 calls to falsifying police reports.
The case was soon dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. In August 2019, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb to review Smollett’s case. A former U.S. attorney, Webb had served as special counsel in a number of high profile cases, such as the 1990 Iran-Contra affair.
Following Webb’s investigation, a grand jury indicted Smollett in February, 2020.
The two alleged attackers, Abimbola Osundairo and Ola Osundairo, testified to the jury that Smollett paid them $3,500 to carry out the attack to help him earn publicity.
After he was charged, Smollett lost his contract of the “Empire TV” shows with 20th Century Fox Television. Also, the number of his followers on social media dropped and he had difficulty securing any commercial contracts, he said.
“I lost my livelihood,” Smollett told the jury yesterday.
Smollett grew up in a working class family with four close siblings in New York and Los Angeles.
He started working as a child actor at age 2 in commercials and films.
Smollett said his mother brought him up with a heart for charity, which he carried through to his adult life.
The closing argument for Smollett’s case will begin shortly after the defense side rests the case.
The jury is likely to begin deliberating on Dec. 8, according to Judge Linn.