Actor Jussie Smollett has testified in court today, asserting that the violent attack he endured in January 2019 “was no hoax.”
“To answer all your questions about the hoax I am going to deny,” Smollett said, according to CBS. “There was no hoax.”
Taking the stand in the Chicago courtroom in his own defense, Smollett recalled an attack by two men. He says that in addition to throwing punches, wrapping a rope around his throat, and pouring bleach on him, the men hurled racist and homophobic slurs. In court, the actor described the attack as “something out of Looney Tunes adventures.”
Smollett also attested that he did not pay two men—named Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo—$3,500 to carry out the attack, calling the theory floated by Chicago police “fully false, 100 percent false.” Both Abel and Ola testified last week that Smollett asked them to “beat him up,” and went with them to scope out the Subway location where the attack took place.
Smollett vehemently denied these claims, calling them a “a bold-faced lie.” He said the $3,500 in question was sent for help with physical training and meal plans in order to lose weight for a scene in Empire.
Smollett did acknowledge that he, Abel, and Ola were seen driving past the restaurant multiple times before the alleged attack, but he says they were just driving around smoking weed.
During his testimony on Monday, the actor said he and Abel started a sexual relationship shortly before the attack, which Abel denies. When asked about whether or not he knew if the Osundairo brothers were indeed his attackers, Smollett answered, “There’s no way for me to know that.”
“It felt like someone massive coming up to me. Not enough time to think,” Smollett said. “This person felt significantly larger than me. Dressed in dark clothes. A ski mask.”
Police and prosecutors claim Smollett staged the attack due to a lack of response on the part of Empire producers after the actor received threatening letters. Special prosecutor Daniel Webb conducted a cross-examination during the tria, pressing Smollett about why he did not give his phone over to the police after the attack and why his manager called in the attack.
“One, I am a Black man in America—I do not trust police,” Smollett said. “I am also a well-known figure, and I’m openly gay… The moment I got beat I become a [homophobic slur] who got his ass whooped.”
The trial commenced on November 29, with Smollett upholding his not-guilty plea for the six felony charges. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison for each charge. The trial wraps up tomorrow, followed by jury deliberation.