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Chicago cop is first witness to testify at Jussie Smollett trial

Jussie Smollett explicitly told police that one of his attackers was white and the other had 'light skin' around his eyes, according to a Chicago detective who was the first witness to testify at the actor's hoax attack trial on Tuesday.  

Smollett, 39, has been charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly staging the attack. He is accused of paying brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo $3,500 to attack him in the street, using bleach and a rope and calling him racist and homophobic names. 

Smollett knew the brothers and had paid them, allegedly to carry out the attack. He claims he only ever gave them money for personal training and that he was duped by the pair, who his attorney described as 'sophisticated criminals' who pretended to befriend him only to exploit him because they 'hate the person he is'. 

'They are not some foreign exchange students from Nigeria. They are sophisticated, highly intelligent criminals.  Jussie thought he had a friend, but that friendship ran one way, it was a one-way street,' Smollett's lawyer Nenye Uche said on Monday, adding that the brothers didn't like Smollett 'because of who he is as a person.' 

A key issue at the center of the case has been whether or not Smollett said the attackers were white. He has in the past used the phrase 'light skinned' when describing the patch of skin around one of his attackers' eyes that he could see because it was exposed by a mask.  

On Tuesday morning, former Chicago Police Detective Michael Theis, who became the lead investigator in the case, testified that Smollett did describe at least one of the attackers as white, and the other as having light skin around his eyes.  

Theis said the cops 'absolutely did not' rush to accuse him of lying and that they all wanted to find the assailants quickly, after a swell of public sympathy for Smollett, a black and gay actor who the world thought had been the victim of a bigoted hate crime. 

He told how the entire department was under immense pressure from everyone from the public to 'the Mayor' to find answers to solve the 'horrible' attack.  

Actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day two of his trial in Chicago. He was flanked by his mother Janet, left, and sister Jurnee, right, along with other members of their family 

Smollett with his mother Janet and another female relative inside the courthouse on Tuesday morning for day two of the trial

Special prosecutor Dan Webb arrives in court on Tuesday morning ahead of the second day of Jussie Smollett's trial 

Before the day's proceedings got underway, Smollett's brother Jojo read a statement on behalf of the family. He said: 'Good morning. I just want to express that it has been incredibly painful as his family to watch someone you love be accused of something they did not do. We are confident in his legal team and we look forward to people hearing the actual facts in this case. We love him. We're here to support him, all of us, and to lift him up. Thank you' 

'It was horrible. It was a hate crime. The noose. The bleach. Everyone from the mayor on down wanted answers,' Theis testified, according to CBS Chicago, which Judge James Linn allowed into the courtroom on Tuesday morning, after refusing to let most journalists inside for jury selection then limiting the number who he will allow to observe the trial because of COVID restrictions. 

Abel and Ola Osundairo are the brothers who say Smollett paid them to attack him. They are expected to take the stand as witnesses at the trial, and to repeat their previous claim that he paid them $3500 to stage the attack

Theis said the police department spent thousands of hours investigating the crime as a 'hate crime' and that Jussie was initially treated as the victim of a vicious and bigoted attack. 

It was only at the end of their investigation, after they had identified the brothers, that they suspected Smollett of lying.

'At the end of our investigation we determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event and that it did not occur,' he told prosecutor Samuel Mendenhall. 

The piece of evidence that turned the investigation was footage of the pair in an Uber on their way to the attack. 

The cops were able to find the car, subpoena the information about who had ordered it and then get the brothers' names. 

Once they had the names, Theis testified that they did a quick search and realized one of the brothers had worked on the set of Empire, and knew Jussie. 

'This filled in a lot of pieces,' Theis testified. 

Theis was also shown a photograph of the brothers on Tuesday and was asked if they were white, to which he quickly replied: 'No.' 

He also testified that Smollett was 'uncooperative' and didn't submit to a DNA swab of his cheek, which detectives said they wanted to rule out the DNA on the 'noose' around his neck and hopefully match what was on there to his attackers. 

Before the proceedings began on Tuesday, Smollett's brother Jojo read a prepared statement on behalf of the family outside the courtroom. 

'Good morning. I just want to express that it has been incredibly painful as his family to watch someone you love be accused of something they did not do. 

 'It was horrible. It was a hate crime. The noose. The bleach. Everyone from the mayor on down wanted answers'

Detective Michael Theis 

'We are confident in his legal team and we look forward to people hearing the actual facts in this case. We love him. 

'We're here to support him, all of us, and to lift him up. Thank you,' he said. 

Smollett also refused to hand over his phone, and declined to have his medical records released. 

On Tuesday, the jury was shown a video form February 14, 2019, of Smollett's interview on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts. 

He cried in the video and definitively identified two men in street surveillance camera footage as his attackers to Roberts.   

Those two men were then definitively identified by the Chicago Police Department as the Osundairo brothers. 

Theis testified that the interview was useful for cops. He said the Osundairo brothers were picked up at Chicago O'Hare Airport the same day, after returning from a trip to Nigeria. 

It was around two weeks after the attack. They flew to Nigeria the day after it.   

Detective Theis said one of the breaks in the case was this Uber footage of the brothers on the night of the attack. Once they got the footage and the information about who had ordered the car, they got the brothers' names and were able to tie them to Smollett 

The jury was also shown this February 14 interview that Smollett took part in for Good Morning America. In that interview, he definitively identified two men in street surveillance camera footage as his attackers, and those two men were later definitively identified by police as the Osundairo brothers 

On Monday, Smollett's attorney said he is not 'someone who likes attention' and claimed that he was the victim of a 'real crime' and a 'tremendous rush to judgement' by police and prosecutors. 

'Jussie Smollett is a real victim,' attorney Nenye Uche (center, pictured in August 2021) said during opening statements Monday

The brothers are expected to testify later this week and it remains unclear if Smollett himself will testify. 

The first day of the trial was chaotic, with confusing instructions from the judge on whether or not media was allowed to be present for jury selection.  

At first, Judge James Linn said no media would be allowed in the room because of COVID social distancing restrictions. 

He then allowed two reporters - one from The Chicago Tribune and one from ABC - to go inside and report on behalf of all of the media. 

Now, no more journalists are being granted access to the section reserved for the media because Judge Linn thinks it breaches COVID restrictions. 

The jury consists of five white men, one black man, five white women and one Hispanic woman. There are also two alternatives. 

Uche told the jury in opening arguments that the brothers, who will testify, will 'lie to your face'. 

He said Smollett would never have been 'stupid enough' to orchestrate the fake attack and pay for it. 

Smollett arrived at court on Tuesday morning with his mother Janet, sister Jurnee and other relatives. 

He has been supported throughout by his family, and says he is the victim of a rush to judgement by the Chicago Police Department. 

He has always claimed that he didn't want to cooperate with the investigation by handing his phone over or giving DNA swabs because the police department was leaking information to the media from the beginning of the probe.  


Jan. 22, 2019

Smollett receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the studio in Chicago where "Empire" is filmed. Police later say they believe Smollett sent the letter himself.

The brothers said Smollett also sent himself this letter to the Fox studio where Empire is filmed a week before the attack. If he did, he faces another 5-10 years in prison on a federal mail fraud charge 

Police say Smollett cut his own cheek to make it look like he had suffered injuries in the attack. He is shown in a hospital bed selfie FaceTiming Lee Daniels, the show's creator, hours after the attack 

Jan. 29, 2019

Jussie Smollett tells police he was attacked by two men in downtown Chicago at 2 a.m. 

The actor says the men used racist and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an "unknown substance" on him. 

Police say Smollett, who is Black and gay, told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in "MAGA country'

Jan. 30, 2019

Chicago police say they've reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack. Police obtain and release images of two people they want to question, calling them 'persons of interest'

Feb. 1, 2019

Smollett issues a statement saying he's OK, that he's working with authorities and has been '100 percent factual and consistent on every level.'

Feb. 2, 2019

Smollett opens a concert in West Hollywood, California, with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn't let his attackers win

Police released this image of 'persons of interest' taken near the reported attack

Feb. 13, 2019

Chicago police pick up two Nigerian brothers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after police learn at least one worked on Empire

Police question them and search their apartment 

Jussie Smollett on Good Morning America on February 14, 2019 

February 20, 2019

Smollett is charged 

Feb. 21, 2019

Chicago police say Smollett surrenders to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, punishable by up to three years in prison.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the two brothers to help him.

Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson tore through Smollett at a press conference on Thursday where he labeled him 'shameful' and 'despicable' 

Feb. 22, 2019

Empire producers say Smollett's character to be removed from the final two episodes of the season.

Jussie Smollett is shown in his mugshot in February 2019

March 7, 2019

A Cook County grand jury returns a 16-count indictment charging Smollett with falsely reporting an offense

March 26, 2019

Smollett's attorneys say charges alleging he lied to police have been dropped.

March 28, 2019

A city official says Chicago is seeking $130,000 from Smollett to cover the cost of the investigation into his reported beating, which police say was staged.

Smollett's attorney Tina Glandian claims on TV that the attackers could have been wearing 'white face' and that's what made him describe them as light-skinned  

April 11, 2019

The city of Chicago files a lawsuit seeking to recoup the investigation costs.

Jussie Smollett's lawyer Tina Glandian suggested on Thursday that the reason he told police his Nigerian attackers were white was because they 'might have been wearing white face' and had disguised themselves. Her evidence of the theory is 2016 video of Abel Osundairo (right) dressed up as the Joker 

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx  recused herself from the Smollett case

April 23, 2019

The brothers who said they helped Smollett stage the attack file a defamation lawsuit against the actor's attorneys.

Aug. 23, 2019

Judge names former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor to investigate why charges against Smollett were dropped.

Feb. 11, 2020

Webb says grand jury returns six-count indictment against Smollett, accusing him of lying to police.

Feb. 24, 2020

Smollett pleads not guilty to restored charges.

Oct. 15, 2021

Judge James Linn denies a last-ditch effort to dismiss the criminal case against Smollett and sets his trial for Nov. 29.  

November 29, 2021: Jury selection begins