A US prosecutor has told jurors there is “overwhelming evidence” that former Empire actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist, anti-gay attack against himself in Chicago for publicity – then lied to police about it.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb said during his closing argument that what Smollett did in January 2019 caused Chicago police to spend enormous amounts of time and resources investigating an alleged crime that turned out to be fake.
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police someone put a noose around his neck and yelled racist and homophobic slurs.
“Besides being against the law it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country,” Mr Webb said. He also accused Smollett of lying to jurors.
“At the end of the day he lacks any credibility whatsoever,” Mr Webb said.
A lawyer for Smollett, 39, is expected to give a closing argument later before the jury begins deliberating whether Smollett is guilty on six counts of a low-level felony for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack.
He faces one count of felony disorderly conduct for each time he gave a report to three different officers.
Taking the witness stand this week, Smollett repeatedly denied the attack was faked, telling a prosecutor “there was no hoax on my part” and that two brothers who testified against him are “liars”.
Smollett called the Osundairo brothers’ testimony that he paid them 3,500 dollars to carry out the fake attack “100% false” and described how he was the victim of a hate crime while walking in his neighbourhood early on January 29 2019.
He also testified that a 3,500 dollar cheque he wrote for Abimbola Osundairo was for meal and workout plans because he was trying to get toned up for an upcoming music video.
Under cross-examination by Mr Webb on Tuesday, Smollett said that a few days before the alleged attack he collected Osundairo in his car to go and work out and that Osundairo’s brother, Olabingo, came along.
He said it was not unusual for him to drive around in circles, and that he cancelled the plan to work out because he did not want to work out with Olabingo Osundairo, who he had not invited along.
Smollett was calm throughout hours of testimony with his defence attorney on Monday, but he seemed to grow irritated during his exchanges with Mr Webb on Tuesday, at one point telling the veteran prosecutor that he does not understand the social media app Instagram.
Mr Webb’s cross-examination also revealed some inconsistencies in Smollett’s testimony, including about whether he sent private messages to confirm the timing of the alleged attack and whether his attackers were white, as police say Smollett told them.
When Webb asked Smollett if he sent private messages on Instagram to Abimbola Osundairo on the night of the alleged attack regarding the timing of the fake attack, Smollett responded, “there was no fake attack,” and denied sending the messages.
After Mr Webb showed Smollett four messages that Smollett sent Osundairo that night, Smollett told Mr Webb: “If you say so, sir.”