After Jussie Smollett spilled all the tea he could on Monday, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb put the focus back on the attack on the Empire star that the actor allegedly staged in a brutal cross examination on Tuesday.
Webb, a lawyer’s lawyer who nailed corrupt judges and cops when he served as the U.S. attorney for the district including Chicago and who prosecuted Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser and deposed the president as special counsel in the Iran-Contra affair, shifted the focus back to the incident at hand. This after Smollett had previously shared intimate details about his relationship with one of the Osundairo brothers, who have testified that the actor paid them $3,500 in 2019 to stage a fake hate crime against him.
Tuesday’s cross examination felt like a masterclass in how to zero in on details and seal the deal. After a day of salacious speculation, innuendo, and tabloid fodder, Webb wanted to remind the jury what they were here to decide upon.
Webb focused on the scene of the incident and the actions leading up to it. Evidence provided during the trial showed that Smollett and the Osundairo brothers drove multiple times in the preceding days around the exact location where the actor would later claim he was physically attacked, had bleach poured on him, and a noose put around his neck in the frigid wee hours of Jan. 29, 2019.
Smollett had previously testified that he solely worked with Abimbola, the Osundario brother he also testified that he had a sexual, drug-induced relationship with—and that he didn’t get along with older brother Olabinjo, who Smollett claimed “had nothing to do with my life.” (Abimbola, who appeared as an extra on “Empire,” has denied that he and Smollett had a sexual relationship.)
So why was Olabinjo in the car with the two of them around the area in question for a workout that didn’t happen?
“You got so stoned that you decided when you got to Streeterville you were too stoned to work out?” Webb asked.
“No,” Smollett replied back. “I’ve worked out many times high on weed. It certainly wasn’t that.”
The actor claims that he found it “weird” that Olabinjo had accompanied him and Abimbola and that, at the time, he said the workout didn’t happen because he had an interview to prepare for. But as Webb kept pressing him on specifics, Smollett grew more and more visibly frustrated.
One notable example was when the prosecution pressed Smollett to acknowledge that he drove around the area not one but three times with the Osundairo brothers.
“Do you have any reason to disagree with police testimony that you passed by the intersection three times?” Webb asked.
“I don’t know,” Smollett replies. “I circled around the block.”
“How long were you there?”
“Well you have the surveillance, you have to tell me,” Smollett snapped back. “It was three years ago.”
It was clear that Webb had punctured a nerve with Smollett. After the actor tried to cast doubt on Abimbola’s testimony by claiming the two had been in a sexual relationship, Webb put the focus back on Smollett, pressing him in an intense series of back-and-forth exchanges about the specific details of the night in question. These included whether Smollett thought a Walgreens was open for 24 hours, why he was looking for eggs in the middle of the night, whether or not he’d asked Abimbola about a workout that night, and on and on until the actor seemed to hit a breaking point.
“I’m just concerned about answering yes or no,” Smollett told Judge James Linn after Webb began to strike one of his responses as “non-responsive.”
“Please, please,” Linn told him. “It’s the same for all witnesses, it’s not personal to you. The lawyer asks questions, you answer them.”
In a final round of back-and-forth, Webb pressed Smollett on the attack itself, and why Smollett changed his initial description of his attackers to the police from white to being “pale skinned.”
By the end of his cross-examination, Webb had left many lingering questions about Smollett’s account of what happened for jurors to consider. Among them: If Smollett had delayed a workout with Abimbola that night, as he testified, why were there no follow up messages or calls about that?
As Webb wrapped up his questioning, he asked Smollett if “getting a few bruises” had really impacted his acting career.
“Mr. Webb, I have a scar under my eye that looks like a bag for the rest of my life,” Smollett replied, while also mentioning a “black circle” on his face. “It’s absolutely a problem.”
Webb then showed Smollett a photo of him during his controversial Feb. 2019 Good Morning America interview with Robin Roberts a few weeks after the attack. In the photo, Smollett did not appear to have any of the markings he’d just described on the stand.
Smollett clapped back, asking Webb if he knows what Hollywood interviews are like and insisting that the makeup provided to him on set “makes me look much better.”
Damn, Jussie—how did you let him get you like that?
Once Webb finished, defense attorney Nenye Uche followed up with redirect questions for Smollett involving his communication with the Osundairo brothers. They were fine and fair, but the damage had already been done, as it appears that the once-celebrated star may have bitten off more than he could chew by choosing to take the stand.