Chicago (CNN)Jussie Smollett will resume testifying in his defense today after taking the stand Monday to rebut allegations that he staged a fake hate crime in 2019 and lied to Chicago police about it.
The former Empire actor, who is Black and gay, testified for more than five hours, denying he orchestrated the alleged attack, attempting to cast doubt on two of the prosecution’s primary witnesses, and describing the early morning incident and his distrust for police.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb will pick up his cross-examination when court begins around 9:15 a.m. CT.
Smollett, 39, has pleaded not guilty to six counts of disorderly conduct for filing false police reports, a charge for which a conviction is punishable by up to three years in prison.
The trial is the culmination of a case that began January 29, 2019, when Smollett told police he had been attacked. Celebrities, politicians and advocacy groups rallied behind the actor, and police poured significant resources into solving the case.
Authorities eventually came to believe the actor had paid two men to fake a hate crime attack, and the trial began last week.
Judge James Linn told jurors Monday that they might not get the case until Wednesday.
Key moments from the defense
Smollett on Monday touched on the days leading up to the alleged hate crime and his relationship with Bola and Ola Osundairo, brothers he knew from the Empire set.
Prosecutors say the brothers were paid $3,500 by Smollett to stage an attack because he was disappointed in the way executives with the TV show responded to a hate letter he received.
The defense has countered that Smollett had paid the men for training and nutritional advice, and Smollett on Monday testified that he and Bola Osundairo had forged a sexual relationship.
The defense has suggested at points during the trial that homophobia may have been a motive in a real hate crime attack against Smollett. During cross-examination of Ola Osundairo a defense attorney asked him about his use of words that they say paint him as homophobic.
Smollett, who referred to the brother as “Bon,” said Osundairo also would help him get drugs, including cocaine.
Smollett, who is also a musician, told jurors about frequently smoking and driving as a way to write music and as a substitute for not being approached by fans on the street.
Osundairo would ride with him a lot, he said, but he also testified there was never any discussion of planning a staged hate attack.
“Did you talk to him about some hoax?” defense attorney Nenye Uche asked.
“No,” Smollett shot back.
“Did you give him the check as payment for some silly hoax?” Uche then asked.
“Never,” Smollett said.
Smollett told the court that in January 2019 he was walking back to the staircase of his building after returning from the Subway sandwich shop, he heard his alleged attackers yell the word “Empire.”
He said he kept walking and heard the words “f****t” and “Empire n***er.”
Smollett told the jury he then became furious, turned around and yelled, “What the f**k did you say to me?”
At that point, Smollett says the men walked toward him very quickly. He then fell and allegedly began tussling with his attackers.
While describing the attack, Smollett appeared to briefly get emotional, prompting his attorney to ask whether he was alright.
Smollett said his relationship with Chicago police began to deteriorate after police said that his attackers wore red Make America Great Again hats, favored by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
The actor said no when Uche asked whether he ever told police the alleged attackers were wearing the hats.
And he said one of the reasons he did not give a police detective his cell phone when she asked for it was because he didn’t think police believed his story.
The defense has also called five other witnesses including a security guard who testified he saw men running the night of the incident and believed one was White. The Osundairo brothers are Black.
Smollett testified that one of his alleged attackers had fair skin under a ski mask.
He added, “With the things that they had said, I made the assumption that they were White.”
Other defense witnesses were Smollett’s publicist, the show’s executive producer and the doctor who examined Smollett at the hospital
Key moments from the prosecution
The prosecution called five police investigators and the brothers to the stand.
Bola and Ola Osundairo testified that Smollett had actually directed them and paid them to stage a fake hate crime in an attempt to get sympathetic media coverage and further his acting career.
“Who was in charge of this thing?” Webb asked last week.
He told the court that Smollett “wanted me to fake beat him up,” and he agreed to do so because he felt indebted to the actor.
“I believed he could help further my acting career,” Osundairo testified. “He told me that we would need another person.”
Osundairo testified last week that one night after he and Smollett drove back to the Osundairo residence from the Empire studio, they parked in an alley and Ola Osundairo came out to join them in the car.
“We went over the details of what he wanted us to say and do,” Abimbola Osundairo told jurors.
Smollett allegedly told him to say, “Empire, f****t, n***er, MAGA” then the conversation moved to the more physical aspect, he said.
Ola Osundairo testified that his brother was tasked with hitting Smollett, while Smollett wanted Ola to put a noose around his neck and pour gasoline on him. They ultimately changed gasoline to bleach because, Ola Osundairo said, “I wasn’t comfortable pouring gasoline on somebody.”
In cross-examination, defense attorney Shay Allen accused Bola Osundairo of having a desire to work security for Smollett and that it became a growing point of tension. Osundairo testified he didn’t remember.
“You attacked Jussie because you wanted to scare him into hiring you,” accused Allen, to which Osundairo responded, “No.”
Testimony grew tense at times as Allen asked whether Osundairo had a sexual relationship with Smollett, which he denied, and how he could not have expected the police to get involved if the media attention on the story grew, as Smollett allegedly planned.
“I wasn’t thinking,” Bola Osundairo said.
One of the officers who testified early last week said when he arrived Smollett had a noose around his neck.
“My first reaction was to ask if he wanted to take it off… he responded by saying he’d like to take it off but he wanted us to see it first,” Officer Muhammad Baig testified.
Smollett was asked Monday about the noose. The special prosecutor pulled up side-by-side images of him with the noose on — one of him walking into his building and one when police arrived. Webb pointed to differences in the appearance of the rope and asked, “Did you try to tamper with the rope to make it look like a more serious lynching?”
“No sir,” Smollett responded, before admitting he took off the noose at his apartment but put it back on when his manager told him to do so.
CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Bill Kirkos reported from Chicago and Steve Almasy reported and wrote from Atlanta. Eric Levenson contributed to this report.