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CHICAGO — Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett took the stand for the second day in his trial over the alleged hoax attack against him in January 2019.
In his second day of testimony, Smollett was reprimanded multiple times by the judge for getting into testy exchanges with prosecutor Dan Webb and refusing to give straight answers to questions. Judge James Linn warned Smollett several times to stick to answering the questions put before him and to refrain from getting into arguments.
The second day of Smollett’s testimony picked up again on Smollett’s story as he continued to deny allegations that the 2019 attack against him was staged. Smollett began his testimony repeatedly snapping at Webb as the prosecutor peppered the actor with questions about the incident.
“There was no hoax,” Smollett said shortly after questioning began amid his numerous denials, “so any question you ask about that is going to be denied.”
Webb soon came to Instagram messages between Smollett and Bola Osundairo, Smollett’s former trainer who has testified to faking the attack on Smollett for $3,500. Smollett and Osundairo messaged each on Instagram throughout the evening of January 28, 2019, and early into the next morning in what prosecutors said was coordination to set up a hoax hate crime. Smollett claimed that he and Osundairo were communicating over a planned workout.
In questioning the defendant over Instagram, Smollett at one point snapped, “Mr. Webb, with all due respect, you do not understand Instagram.”
“You’re misrepresenting me to the jury and to the entire court, and it’s not fair,” Smollett said, according to the New York Post. “Without showing the actual Insta stories that I posted, they’re not getting the full story so they don’t understand.”
After Webb tried to smooth things over by appealing to his “older” age, Judge Linn stepped in and lectured Smollett on his testy response to the prosecutor, “Just answer his questions without arguing. Your lawyer will have a chance to clear it up,” Linn said.
As Webb read through Smollett’s Instagram messages, the actor objected to the prosecutor quoting Smollett’s own use of the slur “n***a.” The first time Webb used the word, quoting from Smollett’s first message to Osundairo on January 28, Smollett visibly winced and let out a slight “oh.”
The second time Webb used the slur, quoting from Smollett’s third message to Osundairo, Smollett blurted, “Can you just spell the word or not say it out of respect for every African American in the room?”
Webb, saying he meant no disrespect for the coarse language in Smollett’s messages, asked the actor if he would read the messages aloud to the courtroom himself. Smollett did without censoring the slur himself.
Smollett is facing six felony charges of disorderly conduct for filing false police reports. The charges carry a potential jail sentence of up to three years. Smollett is expected to escape lockup if found guilty, however. Because nobody was physically hurt by his alleged crime and his lack of a criminal history, experts expect that Smollett would receive probation and community service if found guilty.
Smollett’s defense team rested its case Tuesday afternoon, and Linn dismissed the court for the day. Closing arguments and jury deliberation in the case is expected to begin on Wednesday.