Actor Jussie Smollett took the stand in his own defense for a second time on Tuesday morning, pushing back during a heated cross-examination in which a special prosecutor suggested he had identified one of his alleged attackers as white because it would make his story more believable.
Special prosecutor Daniel Webb, who has insisted that Smollett concocted a racist, anti-gay hate crime against himself in January 2019, suggested that the former Empire actor had weaponized race as part of the publicity stunt.
“Did you think by saying that the people that attacked you were white, it would lend credibility to a fake hate crime?” Webb asked.
Smollett replied curtly: “You’d have to ask someone that did a fake hate crime.”
The line of questioning follows Smollett’s description of at least one of his alleged attackers as white, when he told police that two men had hurled slurs “Empire f—-t n—-r” and “this is MAGA county,” before punching him, dousing him in bleach, and slipping a noose around his neck on the night of Jan. 29, 2019.
During his nearly six hours of testimony on Monday, Smollett said that he thought one of his attackers was white because he believed he saw white skin peeking through the ski mask the man was wearing and partly because he made an assumption about the person’s race based on the nature of the epithet that was used.
Smollett told Webb that he couldn’t recall whether or not he had directly told detectives that his alleged attackers were white, but remembered suggesting that they were “pale” because he couldn’t see their faces.
“By then, I certainly was saying ‘pale skin,’” Smollett said. “I didn’t see the face and it wouldn’t be fair to say they were white.”
Anthony Moore, a security guard who was working at Smollett’s apartment building that night, testified on Monday that he saw the actor’s attackers gallop away and said he told police that one of them was a white male in a ski mask.
When Webb pressed Smollett further about the identity of his attackers, later asking if he knew that it had been the Osundairo brothers, who are Black, Smollett replied: “There’s no way for me to know.”
Smollett later declared that the two brothers were “liars,” when questioned about their testimony that they were responsible for the attack and that it had been staged.
“They also said I had something to do with it and that’s not true,” Smollett said.
In an opening statement last week, Webb painted Smollett as the director of the alleged attack, soliciting help from Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to boost his acclaim.
Digging into the events leading up to the altercation, and in an effort to beef up an argument that Smollett had planned the fake attack, Webb also probed Smollett about Instagram messages he had exchanged with Abimbola Osundairo, the younger of the two brothers, when Smollett’s return flight to Chicago was delayed on the night of the incident.
While Webb suggested that the messages were part of a plot to let Abimbola know that the attack would be delayed, Smollett said that he had shared the update about his flight delay with all 5 million of his followers and that he had merely responded to Abimbola’s message that night, and wanted to schedule a workout, he said.
“Mr. Webb, with all due respect you do not understand Instagram,” Smollett sniped at one point, saying his messages were in response to the public post to his followers.
“You’re misrepresenting me to the jury and to the entire court, and it’s not fair. Without showing the actual Insta stories that I posted, they’re not getting the full story so they don’t understand,” he added, according to the New York Post.
Webb similarly tried to point at other indications of orchestration on Smollett’s part, asking if the actor had “arranged” for his manager to call him around the time of the attack.
The line of questioning followed statements Smollett made on Monday, including that he had been on the phone with his manager Brandon Moore, who encouraged him to file a report with police about the attack even though he was hesitant about how doing so might impact his ability to book acting roles.
“I told him to call me when he could,” Smollett said. “He could have called me the next day.”
Directing his questions to the cuts and bruises Smollett endured during the alleged attack, Webb suggested they would “not be a big problem” for the actor.
“I have a scar under my eye,” Smollett shot back, adding that a “black circle” under one of his eyes still “won’t go away after three years.”
“That’s a problem for me,” he said.
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