Before and after Jussie Smollett told Chicago police he was attacked near his Streeterville apartment in 2019, he exchanged damning texts with the two brothers authorities said the former “Empire” actor recruited to stage the assault, a CPD detective testified Tuesday.
Smollett also picked up Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo at their home two days before the Jan. 29, 2019, incident, and the three drove by the location of the purported attack multiple times in what Detective Michael Theis described as a “dry run.”
“Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?” Theis said Smollett texted Abimbola Osundairo four days before, and they met at Cinespace Film Studios — where “Empire” was shot — before picking up Olabinjo Osundairo to discuss how the fake attack would go down.
When the brothers were arrested later, Smollett allegedly texted them again, telling Abimbola Osundairo he had his back and to call him after they were released from custody.
“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 said.
Hours before that day, Smollett appeared on “Good Morning America” in tears, saying he believed a grainy surveillance image captured the images of his attackers.
Those images were of the Osundairos.
Theis spent eight hours on the stand Tuesday, partly discussing the painstaking efforts authorities took to investigate Smollett’s claims that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
“This was horrible,” Theis said. “The crime was a hate crime, but a horrible hate crime. There was a noose, there was bleach … everyone wanted to know what happened. From the mayor on down, everyone wanted answers.”
Over two dozen officers and detectives devoted more than 3,000 hours to investigate, combing through more than 1,500 hours of surveillance video, collected from police POD cameras, businesses and residential homes that allowed detectives to track the movements of the two Osundairos and Smollett, Theis said.
Ultimately, evidence showed Smollett, now 39, staged the attack and lied to police about it, Theis told Cook County prosecutors.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche later grilled Theis, asking why a sketch artist was not sent to meet with a witness who allegedly saw a suspicious white man in the area when Smollett said he was ambushed.
Uche also noted there were two witnesses who said they saw or heard the Osundairos using a cellphone on the night of attack.
Earlier, Theis testified the brothers didn’t use cellphones and that Smollett had told them to leave their mobiles at home.
While cross-examining Theis, Uche used the opportunity to chip away at the credibility of the Osundairos, who are expected testify against Smollett.
Uche said that drugs, multiple cellphones and a cache of weapons were found at the Osundairos’ home. The defense attorney also questioned if detectives has asked Olabinjo Osundairo about several homophobic social media posts he made, insinuating that could have been his motive to target Smollett, who is gay.
Uche also played a short police interrogation video where a detective could be heard asking the brothers if they had choreographed the attack beforehand. Theis’ partner is also heard asking in the video if Smollett had told them to avoid hitting him in his “pretty face” — a comment Uche called homophobic.
When Uche asked Theis if his partner’s comment was appropriate, Judge James Linn intervened.
“He can say that. So what?” Linn said at one point, prompting gasps from Smollett’s supporters sitting in the courtroom.
After Theis got off the witness stand and the jurors were cleared from the courtroom, Linn lambasted Uche for his line of questioning.
“You can’t just make negative inferences and let them hang out there,” Linn told Uche. “You have to prove them.”
Before the second day of Smollett’s trial got underway Tuesday, Smollett’s older brother Jojo Smollett told reporters that it has been a difficult ordeal since the actor was charged with disorderly conduct.
“It has been incredibly painful as his family to watch someone you love be accused of something they did not do,” he said.
“We’re confident in his legal team, and we look forward to people hearing the actual facts in this case. We love him. We’re here to support him, all of us, and to lift him up.”