Detective: Brothers detailed how Jussie Smollett staged hoax

  • Actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago, in Chicago.

    Actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago, in Chicago. Associated Press

  • Special prosecutor Dan Webb arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of Jussie Smollett's trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago.

    Special prosecutor Dan Webb arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of Jussie Smollett's trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago. Associated Press

  • Actor Jussie Smollett arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago, in Chicago.

    Actor Jussie Smollett arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago, in Chicago. Associated Press

  • FILE - Brothers Olabinjo Osundairo, right, and Abimbola Osundairo, appear outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Feb. 24, 2020. The trial of actor Jussie Smollett will boil down to the question of whether the jury believes the actor's version of what he says was a racist and homophobic attack or that told by the two brothers who say they helped the actor fake the attack. Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo admit they took part in the 'œattack' that made headlines around the world but say Smollett planned the whole thing and paid them to do it. The trial starts with jury selection Monday, Nov 29, 2021 and is expected to last a week.

    FILE - Brothers Olabinjo Osundairo, right, and Abimbola Osundairo, appear outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Feb. 24, 2020. The trial of actor Jussie Smollett will boil down to the question of whether the jury believes the actor's version of what he says was a racist and homophobic attack or that told by the two brothers who say they helped the actor fake the attack. Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo admit they took part in the 'œattack' that made headlines around the world but say Smollett planned the whole thing and paid them to do it. The trial starts with jury selection Monday, Nov 29, 2021 and is expected to last a week. Associated Press

  • Actor Jussie Smollett arrives with his mother Janet, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago.

    Actor Jussie Smollett arrives with his mother Janet, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago. Associated Press

  • Actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives with his mother Janet, left, and other family members Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago.

    Actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives with his mother Janet, left, and other family members Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago. Associated Press

  • Actor Jussie Smollett arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago, in Chicago.

    Actor Jussie Smollett arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago, in Chicago. Associated Press

  • Jussie Smollett's brother Jojo, left, reads a prepared statement to reporters upon arrival Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his brother's trial in Chicago. Jussie is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago.

    Jussie Smollett's brother Jojo, left, reads a prepared statement to reporters upon arrival Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his brother's trial in Chicago. Jussie is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago. Associated Press

  • Special prosecutor Dan Webb arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of Jussie Smollett's trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago.

    Special prosecutor Dan Webb arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of Jussie Smollett's trial in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 11/30/2021 8:11 PM

CHICAGO -- Two brothers arrested for an alleged attack on Jussie Smollett recounted for Chicago police how the ex-'œEmpire' actor orchestrated the hoax, telling them via text message to meet him 'œon the low,' paying for supplies and holding a 'œdry run' in downtown Chicago, a lead investigator testified Tuesday.

Taking the stand as prosecutors began their case against Smollett, former police detective Michael Theis said he initially viewed the actor as a victim of a homophobic and racist attack and that police 'œabsolutely' didn't rush to judgment as Smollett's defense attorney alleged during opening statements Monday.

 

Theis, who now is assistant director for research and development for the Chicago Police Department, said roughly two dozen detectives clocked some 3,000 hours on what they thought was a 'œhorrible hate crime' in January 2019. He said they were excited when they were able to track the movements of two suspected attackers using surveillance video and cellphone and records from ride-sharing services.

'œThe crime was a hate crime, a horrible hate crime,' Theis said, noting Smollett - who is Black and gay - reported that his attackers put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. He said the case had become national and international news and that 'œeverybody from the mayor on down" wanted it solved, a reference to then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Smollett is charged with felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is convicted he likely would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

After police arrested Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo - brothers who also worked on the set of 'œEmpire' in Chicago - as they returned to Chicago from Nigeria, the men said Smollett wanted to stage the attack because he was unhappy about how the TV studio handled hate mail the actor had received, Theis said. He said investigators checked out the brothers' account - including that the actor picked them up days before the attack and drove them around the downtown neighborhood where he lived and talked about what would happen - and corroborated their version of events using GPS, cellphone records and video evidence. Police found no instance where they concluded the men were lying, he added.

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'œAt the end of the investigation, we determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event,' Theis said, and the Osundairo brothers were released.

Jurors were shown surveillance video of the brothers buying supplies, including a red hat they told police Smollett wanted them to wear to resemble supporters of then-President Donald Trump, and a piece of clothesline police said was later fashioned into the noose. Jurors also saw a still image from a video that Theis said showed Smollett returning home the night of the alleged attack, with the clothesline draped around his shoulders. The clothesline was wrapped around his neck when officers arrived, Theis said, leading detectives to believe Smollett may have retied it.

Muhammad Baig, the first officer on the scene after Smollett's manager reported the attack, said he asked Smollett if he wanted to take the rope off his neck and "he responded by saying that he'd like to take it off but he wanted us to see it first.' He also said Smollett asked officers to turn off their body-worn cameras, which they did.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche said during opening statements Monday that Smollett 'œis a real victim' and that the brothers attacked Smollett because they didn't like him 'œbecause of who he is.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Tuesday, Uche suggested the brothers were homophobic, asking Theis on cross-examination about a homophobic word one of the brothers used. Theis said there was a message containing a slur but that he doesn't know if that makes the man homophobic. Uche also asked Theis if he was aware one of the brothers attacked someone at the TV studio because he was gay.

'œOne individual said it happened, but I don't know that it happened," Theis said.

Uche also sought to discredit the police investigation, suggesting detectives ignored possible leads. And he said a $3,500 check the actor paid the brothers was for personal training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not for carrying out the hoax, as prosecutors allege. Theis said Tuesday that the memo on the check said it was for 'œnutrition' and 'œtraining.'

The brothers will testify during the trial, but it's unknown if Smollett will.

Uche has portrayed the siblings as unreliable, and said when police searched their home they found heroin and guns.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors that Smollett told police he was attacked by Trump supporters, inflaming political divisions nationwide.

Webb said Smollett thought the TV studio didn't take hate mail he received seriously. Police haven't determined who wrote the letter, which included a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree and 'œMAGA,' a reference to Trump's Make America Great Again campaign slogan. Webb said Smollett told the brothers to shout racial and homophobic slurs and 'œMAGA' during the staged attack.

Uche also suggested that a third attacker was involved. One area resident said she saw a white man with 'œreddish brown hair' who appeared to be waiting for someone that night, according to police reports. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she 'œcould see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.'

Uche referenced the woman during his cross-examination of Theis on Tuesday, and Theis acknowledged that he saw that statement but did not send a detective to re-interview her. He said the woman had seen the man a few hours before the alleged attack and that 'œthe rope was a different color.'

Outside the courtroom, Smollett's brother said it has been 'œincredibly painful' for the family to watch Smollett be accused of something he 'œdid not do.'

'œWe're confident in his legal team, and we look forward to people hearing the actual facts of this case,' Jojo Smollett said.

Judge James Linn expects the trial to last about one week.

___

Check out the AP's complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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