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Jussie Smollett testifies for first time during alleged hate crime trial

·2-min read

Jussie Smollett took to the witness stand for the first time on Monday during his trial over allegations that he staged a 2019 hate crime in Chicago.

The former Empire actor insisted that he did not plan or coordinate the attack, that it was real rather than a hoax and claimed that he did not file a false police report, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Recounting the night of the incident, Smollett testified that he was returning home after buying a sandwich when someone yelled something about Empire, followed by a racist remark. When the actor turned to confront the person shouting, a large man ran up to him.

"I would like to think I landed a punch. But I don't know if it landed," he recalled, alleging that a 30-second fight broke out and another person joined the altercation. The 39-year-old actor said he assumed that the attackers were white due to the use of racial slurs and the phrase "MAGA country," a reference to then-U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign slogan.

Smollett claimed that he was on the phone before the altercation, and once the attackers fled, he told the person on the other line that he "got jumped". Shortly after, he realised he had a noose around his neck, which he took off when he got back to his apartment. A friend called the police upon his arrival and told him to put the noose back on for the officers to see.

"I am a Black man in America. I do not trust the police," the actor said from the stand, addressing why he did not call authorities after being attacked. "I am also a well-known figure at that time and I am an openly gay man."

Earlier in the trial, brothers Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo testified they were paid several thousand dollars by the actor to orchestrate the attack and had a "dress rehearsal" prior to the night of the events. Smollett said that the cheque was for training and nutritional advice from Abimbola, and when his defence attorney asked if the payment was for a set-up, he replied: "Never".

Previously, the prosecution claimed the actor staged the attack because Empire producers had not taken hate mail he received seriously. Brett Mahoney, who was a producer on the show, took to the stand earlier in the day saying that the production contacted law enforcement and gave Smollett's mail over to the police.

The trial continues.

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