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The Jussie Smollett trial is under way in Chicago this week, and things already don't appear to be going in the defendant's favor.
During opening arguments on Monday, special prosecutor Dan Webb claimed that the former "Empire" actor orchestrated the entire alleged hate crime incident, even going so far as to perform a "dry run" of the attack before it was carried out. Moreover, the practice session was reportedly caught on surveillance video, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Smollett — who is black and gay — made national headlines in 2019 after claiming to be the victim of a racist and homophobic attack carried out by two Nigerian brothers who supported then-President Donald Trump.
But following an ensuing investigation, authorities determined that Smollett had staged the hate crime in an effort to boost his acting career. Smollett is now being tried in court on six counts of felony disorderly conduct.
Prosecutors argued in court on Monday that the surveillance video and corroborating testimony from the brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, amount to critical evidence proving their case against the actor. Here's more from the Tribune:
Webb said Abimbola will testify that days before the incident, Smollett texted him asking for help “on the low.” The two later talked in Smollett’s car, with the actor telling him specifically he wanted them to shout a racial epithet and “MAGA!” to make it seem like the assailants were racist supporters of President Trump.
“I want you to attack me, but when you hit me, I want you to kind of pull your punches a bit because I don’t want to get seriously hurt,” Webb said Smollett told the brothers. Smollett also instructed them to put a rope around his neck to “make it look more like a lynching, like a hate crime,” Webb said.
The three men went on a “dry run” before the attack, part of which was captured on surveillance camera, Webb said. Smollett’s Mercedes can be seen circling the Streeterville intersection, showing the brothers the area where he wanted the attack to occur, Webb said.
The Chicago Sun-Times also reported that text messages between Smollett and the Osundairo brothers sent after the incident further implicate the defendant.
According to the outlet, Chicago detective Michael Theis testified in court that Smollett texted the brothers after their arrest, telling Abimbola Osundairo that he had his back and instructing him to call after their release.
“'I know 1000%. You and your brother did nothing wrong... I am making this statement so everyone else knows ... Please hit me when they let you go. I am behind you fully,' Smollett texted,” Theis stated.
In response to the prosecution's arguments, Smollett's defense team maintained that their client was innocent and furthermore the victim of a real crime.
"From the very first moment, Jussie's truth, what he said happened, has remained constant, it has remained consistent, it has not changed. There has not been a Part 1, there has not been a Part 2 ... because it's the truth," defense attorney Nenye Uche said, according to the Tribune.
Uche added that the Osundairo brothers were "sophisticated, highly intelligent criminals."
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