Empire actor and singer Jussie Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports to police
Smollett told police on January 29, 2019 that he was attacked in the middle of the night by two MAGA-hat wearing, racist, ‘light skinned men’
He said he was walking to Subway to buy a sandwich after returning home to Chicago from a work trip when he was attacked
The attackers were identified as brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, after cops used surveillance footage to trace back their path to the scene of the ‘attack’
Admitting their role in the sham, Abel and Ola Osundairo told police Smollett paid them $3500 to carry out the attack – They will take the stand later this week
Chicago police slammed the actor who they accused of trying to boost his profile, with a staged attack
Smollett was charged with 16 counts of lying to police but the charges were dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx
Amid a swell of public outcry, Smollett was charged again a year later by a special prosecutor
He maintains his innocence and says he was the victim of a racist and homophobic beating
He faces a maximum of three years in prison per count, but it’s more likely he would face probation if he is found guilty
Jussie Smollett’s hoax attack trial begins this week, nearly three years after he told police he was beaten in the street by two MAGA hat wearing, light-skinned men who turned out to be a pair of brothers who claim the actor paid them to stage the beating.
Smollett, 39, was charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct in February 2020, a year after the incident.
Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, but it’s likely he would be sentenced to probation if found guilty.
Smollett was accused of orchestrating the attack by hiring brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo to punch him and put a noose around his neck, in what police said was an effort to raise his celebrity profile.
Embattled actor Jussie Smollett [center], arrives in Chicago court at beginning of his trial on Nov 29
In his report of the attack, Jussie Smollett told cops he was beaten in the street by two MAGA hat wearing, light-skinned men. It later emerged that the alleged his assailants are a pair of brothers, Abimbola Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo who are black and not unknown to the complainant.
The men claim the actor paid them to stage the beating.
Smollett told police that two men attacked him outside, near his Chicago apartment, around 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019, as he was walking back from a Subway sandwich shop, authorities said.
Smollett, who played a gay character on “Empire,” said the attackers yelled, “‘Empire’ fat'” and ” ‘Empire’ ner,” while striking him, police said.
The incident ended with a noose around his neck and bleach poured on him, police said.
The actor said one of the men shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to then-President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, according to police.
Smollett seen wearing a sweater with a white rope tied in a noose around his neck
Police initially investigated the case as a possible hate crime.
Chicago police body camera footage shows officers speaking with Smollett that day: As officers enter his apartment, he’s seen wearing a sweater with a white rope tied in a noose around his neck.
Smollett was charged first with 16 counts of lying to police, but the charges were dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who had connections to the actor’s family.
He was re-charged in 2020 by a special prosecutor, and that is the case that is now going to trial.
Jury selection began Monday morning for the trial, in which Smollett is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports to police.
He has pled not guilty. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, has always maintained his innocence and says he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
He doesn’t deny that it was the brothers who were involved, but he says he did not lie to police in his version of events.
The brothers are expected to testify that Smollett paid them $3,500 to carry out the attack and it is also possible that Smollett may take the stand.
Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing a red hat, ski masks and gloves from a beauty supply shop hours earlier.
A disorderly conduct charge for a false crime report is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. A judge would determine whether convictions on multiple counts would yield sentences that run concurrently or consecutively.
Smollett’s attorneys have not spelled out how they will confront the significant trove of evidence, however buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from a woman who lived in the area who says she saw a white man with ‘reddish brown hair’ who appeared to be waiting for someone that night.
She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she ‘could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.’
Her comments could back up Smollett’s contention that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Further, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers. On the other hand, this particular statement has been widely ridiculed because the Chicago born brothers, who have Nigerian parents, are black.
In February 2019, before he was arrested, Smollett appeared on Good Morning America to talk about the attack.
By then, police had released surveillance footage of two masked men who they said were the attackers. Smollett identified them as the attackers on GMA.
The police then confirmed that the men in the footage were the Osundairo brothers, who Smollett had met before on the set of Empire, and who had been in his Chicago luxury apartment building.
He was torn to shreds for claiming that he was attacked by light-skinned men when the brothers, who are black, were identified.
To try to explain it, one of Smollett’s attorney’s, Tina Glandian, suggested that the pair of assailants might have been wearing make-up.
There is so much evidence, including the brothers’ own statements, that they participated in the attack.
They $3,500 check could be key. While the brothers say that was their fee to carry out the fake attack.
According to their attorney, the brothers will also describe how Smollett drove them to the spot where the incident was to play out for a ‘dress rehearsal.’
‘He was telling them “Here´s a camera, there´s a camera and here´s where you are going to run away,” said their lawyer, Gloria Rodriguez.
Smollett has offered an alternate and much more innocent explanation: that he wrote the check to pay one of them to work as his personal trainer.
Defense attorneys are expected to attack the brothers’ credibility.
Finally, prosecutors are likely going to make the course of Smollett’s career take center stage, probably in line with the point made by then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson when he announced Smollett’s arrest in 2019: that Smollett thought the attack would gain him more fame and get him a raise on a hit TV show.
Smollett whose career has since taken a hit, will this week return to the glare of the media spotlight, but this time as he passes the forest of news cameras as he makes his way to and from court.
The producers of “Empire,” on which he starred for four years, renewed his contract for the sixth and final season in 2019, but he never appeared in an episode. Furthermore, he has not released any music or given significant musical performances.
He has, however, directed an independent film, funded by his own production company, that is premiering at the American Black Film Festival this month. – The movie, B-Boy Blues is an adaptation of a 1994 novel, the first in a series, about the lives of gay Black men in New York.
After being charged in February 2019, Smollett went to the set of Empire to promise to his co-workers he was innocent.
‘I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls. I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this,’ he said.
His legal team then issued a statement implying he has been condemned without due process by the American legal system. – ‘The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election.
‘Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing, ‘ his team said.
Chicago Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson referred to the actor as a ‘troubled young man’ who has ‘taken advantage of the pain and anger of racism to further his career’ by allegedly lying that he was attacked by racist and homophobic assailants on January 29.
When police learned that Smollett’s motive was to get more money, it ‘p****d everybody off’, Superintendent Johnson said, adding that Smollett’s repeated ‘lies’ were ‘shameful’ and ‘despicable’.
Johnson who is black chastised Smollett for fanning the racial divide in the city: ‘I know the racial divide. I know how hard it has been for our city and our nation to come together.
‘Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career, Chief Johnson said, adding, ‘I’m left hanging my head and asking why? Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?
‘How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see it as an opportunity to manipulate his own public profile?’ Superintendent Johnson said, adding it was a ‘slap in the face ‘ to ‘everyone’ in Chicago.
‘I love the city of Chicago, warts and all, but this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.
‘The accusations within this phony attack received national attention for weeks…Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor,’ he went on.
He added that he was ‘angry and offended’ and said it was a travesty that other crimes do not garner as much attention.
‘I just wish that the families of the victims of gun violence in this city got as much attention. That is who really deserves this amount of attention.’
Johnson closed by saying: ‘I’ll continue to pray for this troubled young man who resorted to both drastic and illegal tactics to gain attention.
Police examined footage from 55 surveillance cameras, obtained more than 50 search warrants and conducted more than 100 interviews.