On January 29, 2019, Smollett claimed that two unknown men attacked him in downtown Chicago. He told police that the men physically assaulted him, called him homophobic and racist slurs, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck.
After an investigation, authorities concluded that Smollet orchestrated the staged attack with the help of brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, in order to gain media coverage and public sympathy. The actor was indicted on six counts of felony disorderly conduct back in February 2020.
One notable distinction of the trial was the contrasting testimonies of Smollett and his alleged accomplices. Abimbola Osundairo claimed that he was paid $3,500 for him and his brother to enact Smollett’s plot. According to Osundairo, they did so because he believed that the Empire star could aid in his pursuit of becoming an actor.
Smollett testified that he was the victim of a hate crime, believing the Osundairo brothers may have attacked him for multiple reasons. He testified that he previously met Abimbola in a club, which eventually led to a drug and sexual relationship between the pair. He further testified that the $3,500 was paid to Osundairo for workout training and nutritional advice, not to stage the attack.
Nenye Uche, Smollett’s attorney, commented:
“At the end of the day, we believe justice will prevail. We don’t believe it was done today but we’re very confident that he will be cleared and he will be found to be innocent.”