Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Courts Building at the start of his trial. (Getty/ Scott Olson)
Jussie Smollett’s defence has argued at trial that the man the actor says attacked him was a former lover who masturbated with him in a gay bathhouse.
Smollett is on trial for allegedly staging a hate crime hoax against himself, and has been charged with six felony disorderly conduct charges.
On Thursday (2 December), his defence questioned the prosecution’s star witnesses, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, brothers who had worked on Empire as extras, and who Smollett says attacked him.
They were arrested after when they were seen on surveillance footage purchasing a ski masks, gloves and a red hat, all items involved in the alleged attack, but the brothers claim that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the hate crime, asking them to dress up as MAGA Trump supporters.
Abimbola, 28, was cross-examined by Jussie Smollett’s defence attorney, Shay Allen, for two hours, according to the New York Post.
Allen alleged that the brothers told Smollett they would not testify that they staged the attack in exchange for $1 million, and said that Abimbola had “dated” the actor.
When Allen asked the Empire extra when the pair had started dating, he responded: “What? We were never dating.”
The day before, while being questioned by the prosecution, Abimbola told the court that he and Smollett had visited a gay bathhouse together, Steamworks, in Chicago’s gay neighbourhood Boystown.
Allen asked him on Thursday if gay porn had been played on TVs at the bathhouse, but Abimbola said he “didn’t recall”.
He continued: “You don’t recall seeing gay pornography?… You don’t remember masturbating with him?” Abimbola responded: “No.”
After suggesting that he had dated Jussie Smollett, Allen changed tack and insinuated that Abimbola was homophobic, pointing to the brothers’ links to Nigeria, where being gay is criminalised.
She also alleged that Abimbola had used the homophobic slur “f****t” on the Empire set, but the prosecution objected to both questions.
The trial will resume on Monday (6 December).
Jussie Smollett’s legal representation faced a lawsuit for claiming he had a sexual relationship with Ambimbola Osundairo
In 2019, Jussie Smollett’s legal team again claimed that he and Ambimbola Osundairo had had a sexual relationship.
While Ambimbola admitted that he and Smollett had partied together, he has repeatedly said that he is not gay.
That year, Ambimbola sued Jussie Smollett’s lawyers for defamation, insisting their claims of a sexual relationship put him and his Nigerian family at risk due to the country’s oppressive laws against homosexuality.