Jussie Smollett trial: Closing arguments begin as star accused of making up attack
Chicago, Illinois - Closing arguments began in the trial of Jussie Smollett Wednesday, with a special prosecutor on the case saying the former Empire actor not only committed a crime by falsely reporting a hate crime, what he did was "just plain wrong."
Prosecutor Dan Webb also told the jury that Smollett lied repeatedly during his two days on the witness stand, tailoring his testimony to fit certain aspects of the evidence.
Webb began his remarks by telling jurors the allegations against Smollett were relatively simple: he falsely reported a fake hate crime to the Chicago Police Department as a real hate crime.
"We have proven this by overwhelming evidence," Webb said.
Not only is what Jussie Smollett did a crime, Webb said, "beyond that it’s just plain wrong to just outright denigrate" something as serious as a hate crime. Webb said it was particularly egregious for Smollett to make sure his plan "had words and symbols" emblematic of this country’s racist past – including a noose and the use of the N-word.
He also said Smollett’s false allegations cost the police enormous resources to investigate.
Prosecution attacks Smollett's account
Webb said prosecutors have overwhelming evidence corroborating that the two key witnesses, brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, told police the truth about Smollett’s plan to pay them to commit the hoax beating, yell racial and homophobic slurs, pour bleach on him, and put a makeshift noose around his neck.
Smollett "tailored his testimony" to fit what he couldn’t deny, like surveillance footage, and lie about the rest, Webb said. He said Smollett’s initial story to police that one of his attackers appeared to be white was all part of the hoax.
"If I say it was whites, that makes it more real," Webb says. "It gives it more credibility (that it was a hate attack)."
Smollett testified Tuesday that he didn’t know who attacked him, and that he only got a look at one assailant, who was wearing a ski mask. Webb argued it was ludicrous for him to say that, since there’s been copious evidence that it was in fact the Osundairo brothers.
"I don’t think there can be any doubt in anyone’s mind who sat through this evidence that it was the Osundairo brothers, who are Black, who attacked him," Webb said.
Webb also ridiculed Smollett’s account that he left his apartment shortly before 2 AM during one of the coldest nights in years to go to get eggs at a nearby Walgreens.
"That makes no sense and that is false testimony," Webb said.
Minor felony case, major attention
The arguments started just before 9:30 AM, capping off a seven-day trial that has captured nationwide attention.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating as soon as Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors contend Smollett staged a phony hate crime attack on himself with the help of two brothers, directing one of them to pull his punches and the other to put a noose around his neck and pour bleach on him.
Smollett’s defense is adamant that the attack was real, and Smollett never orchestrated any kind of hoax – an assertion that Smollett stuck to for hours during his own time on the witness stand this week.
Smollett faces six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly giving false information to the police about the attack.
The alleged racial and homophobic attack on the then-Empire actor on a frigid night in January 2019 led to one of the most momentous minor felony cases in Cook County history.
Under an international media spotlight, the case spiraled into a tangle of rumors and culture-war flashpoints, competing lawsuits, a special prosecutor’s investigation, and a political crisis for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
But jurors will be tasked with determining only one thing: whether Smollett, in fact, staged the attack on himself, then lied to police about it.
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire