CHICAGO – Testimony will begin Tuesday in the trial of former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who prosecutors say staged a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago. but the defense argued that the “real victim” of a “real crime.” “
Special Counsel Dan Webb told jurors in his opening statement late Monday that Smollett recruited two brothers – who had worked with him on the TV show – to help him. made a fake attack in January 2019 because he believed the TV studio was not hate. letter that he received in earnest.
Smollett then reported the alleged attack to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime and spent 3,000 hours working on the investigation, Webb said. The actor told police he was attacked by supporters of then-President Donald Trump – causing political divisions across the country.
“When he reports a fake crime it’s a real crime,” Webb said.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche said the brothers attacked Smollett because they didn’t like him and that the $3,500 check the actor paid the men was for training so he could prepare for a Upcoming music videos. Uche also suggested that a third assailant was involved and told jurors that there was no “fragmentation” of physical and forensic evidence linking Smollett to the crimes prosecutors allege.
“Jussie Smollett was a real victim,” Uche said.
Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct. The fourth degree felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts say it is likely that if Smollett is found guilty, he will be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to do community service.
Webb told the jury that Smollett was displeased with the way the studio handled a letter he received that included a drawing of a stick hanging from a tree and “MAGA,” a reference to the Make America Great campaign slogan. Great comeback of Trump. Webb said police have not yet determined who wrote the letter.
However, Uche countered that Smollett declined additional security when the studio offered it.
Webb said Smollett then “came up with this fake crime”, holding a “dress rehearsal” with the two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, including telling them to scream racial slurs. race and homophobia and “MAGA.” Smollett also told the brothers to buy a ski mask, a red hat, and “a rope to make it look like a hate crime,” Webb told the jury. Webb said the brothers used the $100 bill Smollett gave them to make purchases.
He said Smollett wanted the attack to be captured on surveillance video, but the camera he thought would capture the hoax was pointed in the wrong direction. He also said the original plan called for the men to pour gasoline on Smollett, but they chose bleach instead because it would be safer.
Whether Smollett, who is black and gay, will testify remains an open question. But you will stand as a witness.
Uche described the brothers as unreliable, saying their stories had changed while Smollett’s had not, and that when police searched their home, they found heroin and guns.
“They’ll lie to your face,” Uche told the jury.
Uche also said the evidence “will show a rush to judgement by many police officials,” and he said prosecutors’ claim of paying for a forgery with a check makes no sense. .
“At the end of the day, they want you to believe that Jussie is stupid enough to pay for a hoax with a check but smart enough to pay (for supplies) with a $100 bill,” he said.
As for Uche’s suggestion that another attacker may be involved, buried in the nearly 500-page Chicago Police Department report is the statement by an area resident who said she saw a white man with “sepia hair” was waiting for someone. night. She told a detective that when the man had his back to her, she “could see underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope”.
Her comments may substantiate Smollett’s opinion that his attackers wore a makeshift noose around his neck. Furthermore, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s claims – widely mocked because the two brothers are from Nigeria, who are Black – that he saw white or pale skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.
Twelve jurors plus two surrogates were sworn in late Monday for a trial that Judge James Linn said he expected to take about a week. Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom and the proceedings are not streamed, unlike in other recent high-profile court cases.
Webb was appointed special counsel after the Cook State Attorney’s office Kim Foxx dropped the initial charges against Smollett and a new indictment was returned in 2020. The prosecutor said. on Monday that testimony would proceed on Tuesday with a Chicago police officer testifying. .
Juries are also expected this week to see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to track the brothers’ movements before and after the reported assault, as well as a The video shows the brothers shopping hours before.
Webb told jurors prosecutors had hundreds of hours of video, and a camera shot near Smollett’s apartment showed him walking up the stairs after the alleged attack, with a clothesline around his neck and still wearing his clothes. follow a sandwich he bought that night.