Abimbola “Bola” Osundairo and his brother Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo provided critical testimony on Wednesday and Thursday in Smollett’s criminal trial on charges that he staged the attack and falsely reported it to police.
Ola Osundairo told jurors that Smollett “had this crazy idea of having two MAGA supporters attack him,” and that he wanted “to put that on social media.”
“Mr. Smollett asked you to fake attack him?” Deputy Special Prosecutor Sam Mendenhall asked.
“Yes,” Ola Osundairo responded.
“Pretending to be Trump supporters?” Mendenhall continued.
“Yes,” Ola Osundairo said.
“So he could then post it on social media?” the prosecutor continued.
“Yes,” Ola Osundairo answered.
He said that Bola 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.”
Smollett, who is Black and gay, has said two men struck him, yelled anti-gay and racist remarks, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him on a frigid night in Chicago in January 2019. Police initially investigated the incident as a possible hate crime and poured significant resources into solving the case and locating the two men.
But after interviewing them and finding other evidence, authorities instead determined that Smollett paid the men $3,500 to stage the hate crime against him so he could get publicity and a career boost.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty to six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly making false reports to police that he was a victim of a hate crime. His defense attorney said in opening statements he is a real victim and the men saw the actor as a “mark” or “target.”
Defense sharply questions Bola Osundairo
The brothers delivered the core testimony of the case, stating plainly that the attack was always intended to be fake.
Bola Osundairo was the first of the two brothers to testify, speaking in court on Wednesday and Thursday. 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 to fake beat him up. He mentioned could my brother do it. I said yes.”
The actor directed them to say “Empire, f****t, n***er, MAGA,” fake punch him, pour bleach on him and then run away, he testified.
“Who was in charge of this thing?” Webb asked.
“Jussie was,” Bola Osundairo told the jury.
The man also said Smollett first explained the plan to him in a car where Smollett was smoking marijuana.
“Even though he’s smoking you still think he’s serious?” asked defense attorney Shay Allen.
“He sounded serious,” Bola Osundairo responded.
Osundairo said Smollett “wanted to use the fake attack or camera footage for media.” He testified that while he didn’t expect payment for helping Smollett stage the attack, the actor still gave him a check for $3,500.
In cross-examination, 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.”
However, special prosecutor Dan Webb asked if Smollett ever talked about security at all while this “fake attack” was being hatched and Osundairo responded, “No.”
During re-direct examination, Webb honed in on the timing of the alleged hoax on one of the coldest nights in Chicago. “If you had not had advanced discussions with Jussie Smollett how would you know where he would be at 2 a.m. in a polar vortex?”
“I wouldn’t,” Osundairo responded.
Testimony grew tense at times as Allen asked whether Osundairo had a sexual relationship with Smollett, which he denied, and how “Bola” 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.
“We finally agree on something,” Allen responded.