Brothers Tried to Get Jussie Smollett to Pay Them $1M to Not Testify, Defense Lawyer Says

The second of two brothers alleged to have helped Jussie Smollett stage an attack on himself testified Thursday in the actor's trial, as the defense made claims that the brothers tried to extort Smollett for $1 million, according to the Associated Press.

The testimony of Olabingo Osundairo repeated much of what was said Wednesday by his brother, Abimbola Osundairo. The brothers said Smollett paid them to fake the 2019 attack on the former Empire actor in Chicago for what they testified he told them was going to be used to generate media attention around himself.

The brothers testified that they were surprised at reports the day after the incident that Smollett had reported the attack to Chicago police as a hate crime.

Shay Allen, Smollett's defense attorney, reportedly said the brothers attacked the actor because they didn't like him, and tried to extort him after being questioned by police.

Allen asked Abimbola Osundairo if he had ever asked to work for Smollett as personal security while working as a stand-in on Empire, the show Smollett was starring in at the time of the alleged attack.

He also asked if after being released following police questioning, the brothers told Smollett they wouldn't testify that he paid them to fake the attack if he gave them each $1 million. Osundairo denied both claims.

The brothers testified that after receiving hate mail at the Chicago TV studio with racist insults and imagery, Smollett got the idea to fake the attack and blame it on racism and homophobia to create publicity for himself.

They allege that he approached them and paid them $3,500 to fake the attack, directing them to do it where a security camera would record it outside the TV studio, put a noose around his neck and pour gasoline on him, which they later decided to change to bleach.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Jussie Smollett, Osundairo Brothers, Extortion
Abimbola Osundairo, right, prays with his brother Olabinjo Osundairo, center, a bodyguard, left, and their attorney Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, upon their arrival at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on day four of actor Jussie Smollett's trial Thursday in Chicago. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago. Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Olabingo Osundairo said Smollett told him he received hate mail at the TV studio in Chicago "and he had this crazy idea of having two MAGA supporters attack him," an apparent reference to then-President Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again." Osundairo believed the plan was to publicize the attack on social media, not to involve police, he said.

"He wanted me to put the noose round his neck and pour the bleach on him," Osundairo said. They opted for bleach, Osundairo said, because he wasn't comfortable using gasoline. He said Smollett wanted his brother to do the punching, and that it should look like a struggle and appear the actor fought back.

Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors said was a false police report about the alleged attack on January 29, 2019—one count for each time he gave a report—to three different officers. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is convicted he likely would be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.

Allen also questioned why Smollett would ask Osundairo and his brother to wait around for him outside at 2 a.m. in January, when temperatures were well below freezing and why they would do so.

"You really wanted to carry out this attack," Allen said.

"This fake attack," Osundairo quickly responded.

In follow-up questioning by prosecutor Dan Webb, Osundairo said he never thought Smollett would go to the police to report the fake attack as a real hate crime. He said Smollett told him that he wanted to use it to generate media attention and that he has never lied to Chicago police.

Smollett's legal team needs to cast doubt on the brothers' damaging testimony but it isn't easy. Abimbola Osundairo stuck with his story during cross-examination, while also denying he had a sexual relationship with Smollett or that he asked the actor to hire him. And much of what the Osundairos have told jurors about that night appears to be corroborated by video and other evidence.

Smollett's legal team is expected to ask Olabingo Osundairo on cross-examination about his previous felony conviction, which he testified Thursday was in 2012, for aggravated battery. As a convicted felon he could not legally possess a firearm, but police found several guns when they searched their home after the alleged attack. Abimbola Osundairo said the guns belonged to him and that Olabingo Osundairo didn't live there, but defense attorneys questioned that. They said the brothers made up a lie about Smollett staging the attack to get out of trouble for possessing the firearms and heroin that was also found in the home.

Abimbola Osundairo, an aspiring actor who worked with Smollett on the Chicago set of Empire, said he and his brother agreed to their roles in the fake attack because he felt indebted to Smollett for helping him with his acting career. Olabingo Osundairo said he didn't know they were going to be paid for the fake attack and said he wouldn't have participated if he had known Smollett would involve the police.

The morning after they carried out the hoax, as news broke of a hate crime against Smollett, Abimbola Osundairo said he texted a note of condolence to Smollett, also as instructed. It read: "Bruh, say it ain't true. I'm praying for speedy recovery."

Defense attorney Nenye Uche has said the brothers attacked Smollett "because of who he is" and has suggested that the brothers were homophobic.

Jussie Smollett, Osundairo Brothers, Extortion
Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Courts Building for the start of jury selection in his trial Monday in Chicago, Illinois. Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported that two masked men physically and verbally attacked him, yelling racist and anti-gay remarks near his Chicago home in 2019. Scott Olson/Getty Images