But under oath Monday, Smollett offered testimony over more than two hours that suggested the brothers — whom he knew from the “Empire” set — may have had other motivations at play.
He said Bola Osundairo, who he called “Bon,” helped him get drugs, including cocaine. He also said a sexual relationship began to forge between the two at a particular Chicago bath house. One night the two were out, and Smollett testified they got a private room and “did more drugs and like, made out.”
On a separate occasion, Smollett told jurors he and Bola Osundairo snuck away from his brother after the three were at a female strip club together. Smollett testified they again got a private room and “made out a little bit, masturbated together.”
In testimony last week, Bola Osundairo denied they had a sexual relationship and said he “didn’t know” there was even any sexual tension.
Smollett testified further Monday he wasn’t friendly at all with Ola Osundairo.
“He kind of creeped me out,” Smollett told jurors. “Every time we were around him, he didn’t speak to me. Every time we needed to leave, he made it seem like we needed to sneak off.”
After a “hate letter” was sent to Smollett in the mail at the “Empire” studio in Chicago on January 22, 2019 — seven days before the alleged attack — Smollett said Bola Osundairo approached him about becoming his personal security guard, something the actor told the jury Osundairo had repeatedly asked him.
Following the letter, Bola Osundairo began asking him more about the need for security, Smollett said. The actor described being annoyed at the idea of always having a security detail around him.
“Around lunch time I would smoke my blunt, drive around the neighborhood of the studios. I don’t want to be in someone’s car,” Smollett said.
Smollett told the jury that while driving around with Bola Osundairo, there was never any discussion of planning a staged hate attack.
“Did you talk to him about some hoax?” defense attorney Nenye Uche asked.
“No,” Smollett shot back.
“Did you give him the check as payment for some silly hoax?” Uche then asked.
“Never,” Smollett said.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb began to cross-examine the actor just before 5 p.m. CT.
The decision to testify in one’s own defense is a high-risk move because the prosecution is allowed to closely cross-examine the defendant.
Smollett’s case involves far less serious charges, and is untied to civilians using lethal weapons.
How the trial has gone so far
The prosecution called seven witnesses over the course of three days of testimony last week.
First, five police investigators testified that Smollett told them two men had attacked him in the street, yelled racist, anti-gay and pro-Trump remarks, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him.
“Who was in charge of this thing?” Webb asked.
“Jussie was,” Bola Osundairo told the jury.
Smollett’s defense, meanwhile, has argued he was actually attacked in a hate crime. They called three witnesses last week, including Smollett’s former music manager and publicist.
On Monday morning, an “Empire” executive producer testified that the show had received a threatening letter in the mail a week before the January 2019 incident. The producer, Brett Mahoney, said Smollett did not want the letter publicized.
Overall, Smollett’s defense has relied on inflammatory questioning of witnesses and outbursts that have led to several heated exchanges with Judge James Linn.
The judge denied the accusation and denied the motion for a mistrial, saying he was stunned by the request.
“Ms. Walker, there were objections that had to be sustained and I was trying to get back on point,” the judge said. “Just because you think you were allowed to go one way, we’re all just doing our jobs.”
But after interviewing the Osundairo brothers and finding other evidence, authorities instead determined that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the hate crime against him so he could get publicity and a career boost.
The incident effectively put a halt to Smollett’s acting career. His character was written off “Empire,” which ended in 2020, and though he has since directed and produced a film, he has not appeared on screen again.
CNN’s Christina Maxouris and Bill Kirkos contributed to this report.