Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Breaking: Defense Argues Jussie Smollett’s ‘Attackers’ Motivated by Homophobia in Flailing Cross-Examination

Chicago, Ill. – The defense attorney for former Empire star Jussie Smollett on Tuesday attempted to poke holes in the earlier testimony of the lead detective on the case, and tried to expose flaws in the Chicago Police Department's investigation of what authorities have called a "staged" hate crime against the disgraced actor.

But lead attorney Nenye Uche's flailing cross examination of detective Michael Theis came across as unfocused, disorienting, and often confusing. Uche jumped around from topic to topic, and point to point, and his questioning was regularly stopped by a clearly frustrated Cook County Judge James Linn for being leading and argumentative, and for introducing hearsay.

At one point, after an extended break, Linn directed the jury not to think too much about the courtroom tension. "Things get testy in the courtroom from time to time," he said.

While both the prosecution and the defense agree that brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, extras on Empire, were involved in the alleged attack against Smollett, Uche questioned Theis about evidence of a possible third person. He also questioned Theis about evidence that the Osundairo brothers are homophobic, a possible alternative motive to explain why they attacked Smollett, who is openly gay, just after 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019.

In addition to shouting racist and anti-gay slurs during the attack, the Osundairos doused Smollett with bleach, hung a noose around his neck, and yelled "this is MAGA country."

Earlier in the day, Theis testified that an in-depth investigation showed that Smollett conspired with the Osundairos to stage the attack against him. Prosecutors have argued that days earlier Smollett received a hateful letter in the mail, and he was upset that the leaders of the Empire studio weren't taking it seriously. Smollett staged the attack to prove a point to the studio leaders, the prosecutors are arguing.

Uche started his cross-examination by questioning Theis about at least one witness who'd reported seeing a white man with a rope earlier in the night in the area near where the attack occurred. Theis later explained that the witness reported seeing the man at least an hour-and-a-half before the alleged attack, and the rope she saw was very small. The rope that was hung around Smollett's neck was long, thin, and white. Theis acknowledged they hadn't sent a sketch artist to the witness's home to generate an image of the man she reported seeing.

Uche questioned Theis about what his investigation showed about the Osundairo brothers' cell phone use the night of the alleged attack. The brothers told investigators they left their phones at home at Smollett's request. But the driver of at least one of the taxis they took said they were using cell phones. The video from the taxi was written over before investigators could review it.

Uche tried to get Theis to acknowledge that the brothers had been on phones, and he questioned why he didn't confront the brothers about the apparent contradiction.

"Do you know who the two brothers were talking to if they were not talking to Jussie?" Uche asked Theis, who responded that he couldn't confirm they were talking to anyone.

Uche then questioned Theis about alleged evidence that the Osundairo brothers are homophobic. Olabinjo Osundairo had made social media posts that revealed he is "very, very homophobic," Uche said, including a tweet in which he described singer Frank Ocean as a "gay ass (n-word)." Uche also questioned Theis about learning during the investigation that Abimbola Osundairo had attacked a man on the set of Empire "for being gay." Theis said he didn't know that attack occurred as a fact, but "one individual said that had happened."

Theis said he did not reach out to the leaders of the Empire studio to try to confirm the alleged motive that Smollett was unhappy with the studio's response to the hate letter he'd received.

Uche questioned Theis about guns and drugs found during a search of the Osundairos' home. He noted that in the memo section of the $3,500 check Smollett wrote out to Abimbola Osundairo just days before the alleged attack, he had written that it was for nutrition and training. Abimola Osundairo was training Smollett at the time, in preparation for a music video. Prosecutors have alleged the check was a pre-payment for the alleged attack. Theis acknowledged that he did not research how much celebrities typically pay personal trainers.

Uche noted that Smollett was working with Abimola Osundairo to obtain an herbal supplement that is banned in the U.S., but legal in Nigeria, where the Osundairos had plans to travel. That, he argued, would explain a face-to-face meeting Smollett texted Abimola  Osundairo about.

"You feel this investigation was investigated properly?" Uche asked Theis.

"Absolutely," Theis responded.

Uche also noted that immediately after the attack, Smollett had allegedly been reluctant to call police. It was Smollett's manager who actually alerted authorities.

The day ended with testimony from two Chicago police officers who had responded to Smollett's apartment the night of the alleged attack.

Officer Muhammad Baig testified that when he arrived at Smollett's apartment, Smollett was still wearing the noose around his neck. Baig asked Smollett if he wanted to take it off. "Yeah, I do, I just wanted you all to see it," Smollett responded, according to Baig's body camera footage. Smollett then asked Baig to turn off his body camera.

Smollett is facing six disorderly conduct charges for allegedly staging the hate crime. Should he be found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison but may also be let off with community service and probation.

In the immediate aftermath of the allegedly staged hate crime, Smollett received an outpouring of support from major Democratic politicians, including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who referred to the incident as a “attempted modern day lynching.”



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Defense Argues Jussie Smollett’s ‘Attackers’ Motivated by Homophobia in Flailing Cross-Examination

Smollett’s attorney was frequently interrupted by a clearly frustrated judge for being leading and ... READ MORE


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