Jussie Smollett testifies at trial: ‘There was no hoax’

US actor Jussie Smollett has denied he staged a racist, homophobic attack against himself, testifying in court that “there was no hoax”.

Mr Smollett, 39, said he was set upon by two assailants shouting slurs in central Chicago on 29 January 2019.

He stood by his claim to police that the assailants had cried out a Trump slogan and tied a noose round his neck.

Mr Smollett faces six felony disorderly conduct charges for allegedly lying about the attack.

Prosecutors have argued the actor staged the incident in an effort to help his career.

Taking the stand in his own defence on Monday, Mr Smollett rejected earlier testimony from two Nigerian-born brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who said last week that the actor had orchestrated the attack himself and paid them $3,500 (£2,600) to carry it out.

Mr Smollett said the cheque was for a meal and workout plan while he was going to be travelling. Asked by his defence lawyer if he gave Abimbola Osundairo payment for the alleged scheme, Mr Smollett replied: “Never.”

“There was no hoax,” the actor told jurors in the Chicago court.

Mr Smollett said he was returning home after buying a sandwich from Subway in the early hours on one of the coldest nights of the year when “something out of Looney Tune adventures” happened to him, reports the Chicago Tribune.

He said one of the attackers was “massive” and wearing a ski mask. He told the jury he assumed the man was white because he used a racial slur and shouted it was “Maga country”, an apparent reference to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.

The Osundairo brothers testified last week that Mr Smollett had instructed them to shout something about “Maga country” as they roughed him up during the allegedly concocted assault.

Mr Smollett told the jury on Monday that after the purported attack, it was only when he returned home to his apartment building that “I realised that the rope was around my neck”.

He said he did not call the police because “as a black man in America, I don’t trust the police, I’m sorry”. Mr Smollett told the court he was angry when his manager called the police.

Authorities have said Mr Smollett wanted to boost his profile because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire, a TV drama about a hip hop dynasty.

By the fifth season of the show, Mr Smollett said he was being paid $100,000 per episode.

He was eventually written out of the show amid the fall-out from the alleged hate crime hoax.

Mr Smollett told the court on Monday he had lost his livelihood since the controversy.

If convicted, he faces a prison sentence of up to three years. Given his lack of previous convictions, however, legal experts have said a lighter sentence or probation would be more likely.

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