Trial of Jussie Smollett, accused of plotting hoax attack, begins in Chicago
The former Empire actor contends he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in downtown Chicago on a cold night in January 2019.
Former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett’s trial begins.
more than two years after police first alleged the actor lied about being the victim of a hate crime.
The siblings, who worked with him on the TV show, say he paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers.
Two brothers stand at the center of the case that prosecutors will lay before jurors when the trial of Jussie Smollett begins with jury selection on Monday.
Smollett is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. The crime carries a sentence of up to three years in prison but experts have said it is more likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.
Whether Smollett testifies remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, will take the witness stand where they are expected to repeat what they have told police officers and prosecutors – that they carried out the attack at Smollett’s behest.
Actor Jussie Smollett walks into the Cook County Courthouse surrounded by family members on day one of his trial.
He’s facing felony disorderly conduct charges, accused of staging a racist attack against himself. Jury selection begins today.
JESSE SMOLLETT TRIAL
Jury selection for the Jussie Smollett case begins Monday. The actor is accused of staging a hoax where he was the alleged victim of an attack in Chicago.
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Smollett, 39, was indicted on six counts last year by a Cook County, Illinois, grand jury, but the actor has insisted on his innocence, repeatedly denying he orchestrated the attack.
His attorney pleaded not guilty on his behalf. The six-count indictment — the most recent twist in a case that gripped the nation from the start — came after 16 felony disorderly conduct counts Smollett was previously facing were unexpectedly dropped.
Judge James Linn said during an October hearing no cameras will be allowed in court. On the same day attorneys for the actor made a final push to have the case dismissed. The judge denied the motion.
Smollett said he was attacked
Smollett told authorities he was attacked in the early morning hours of January 29, 2019 by two men who were yelling racial and homophobic slurs. He said the two men put a noose around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him, according to Chicago police.
Celebrities, politicians and advocacy groups rallied behind the actor, with former President Donald Trump calling the alleged attack “horrible.” In his first public statement since the reported attack, Smollett thanked his fans for the support and attempted to dispel doubts questioning the integrity of his story, saying he had “been 100% factual and consistent on every level.”
Police began an investigation, taking Smollett’s sweater and rope and eventually obtaining video showing the actor entering a Lowes store after the alleged attack with what appeared to be a noose around his neck.
A day after the alleged attack, police said they found surveillance footage showing “potential persons of interest wanted for questioning.”
Smollett is indicted on 16 felony counts
In March 2019, Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct by a Cook County, Illinois, grand jury. The indictment said that after the alleged attack, Smollett gave statements to both a Chicago police officer and to a detective but that details in those statements were different.
An attorney for Smollett at the time called the indictment a “prosecutorial overkill” and a “desperate attempt to make headlines,” adding the actor maintained his innocence.
On March 14, 2019, Smollett appeared in court and pleaded not guilty.
About a week before the charges were announced, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx removed herself from the case to address potential concerns of impartiality “based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in this case,” a spokeswoman from her office said.
All charges are dropped
In a dramatic reversal in the case, Chicago prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett on March 26, 2019. Revealing little about the reason why, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the decision came after reviewing the case and after the actor agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond. Parts of the case were sealed, one of Smollett’s attorneys said.
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement.
First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, the lead prosecutor, said Smollett had no prior felonies and was not a danger to the community. He added that thousands of other cases had similar results but that this one stood out in the media because of Smollett’s celebrity.
Police release investigative reports
Following news of the dropped charges, Chicago police released a portion of their investigative reports in the case, which shed light on investigators’ interactions with the Osundairo brothers — including one instance in which one brother told detectives it “felt good” to tell the truth.
After the reports were made public, the police department was “then advised of a court order prohibiting such release,” then police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, the Chicago police union called for a federal investigation into Foxx, the state’s attorney for Cook County, to evaluate her involvement in the case following news reports about text messages between her and an attorney about “diverting the case from Chicago police department to a federal investigation,” Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said in March 2019.
The following month, Foxx asked the Cook County inspector general to investigate her office’s handling of Smollett’s criminal case, saying that “ensuring that I and my office have the community’s trust and confidence is paramount to me.”
who is Jussie Smollett ?
Jussie Smollett is an American actor and singer.
(/ˈdʒʌsi/ JUSS-ee, born June 21, 1982)
He began his career as a child actor in 1991, acting in films such as The Mighty Ducks (1992) and Rob Reiner’s North (1994). In 2015, Smollett portrayed musician Jamal Lyon in the Fox drama series Empire, a role that was hailed as groundbreaking for its positive depiction of a black gay man on television. Smollett has also appeared in Ridley Scott’s science fiction film Alien: Covenant (2017) as Ricks and in Marshall (2017) as Langston Hughes.
Smollett was indicted in February 2019 for disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a hate crime assault.
The charges were dropped the following month, but in February 2020 he was reindicted on similar charges relating to the same incident