Jussie Smollett Criminal Trial: Everything you need to know

Actor Jussie Smollett is facing a criminal trial this week over several plot twists featured in his former Fox musical TV drama, “Empire.”

The long-running case, which began jury selection on Monday, stems from a January 29, 2019 incident in which the actor told Chicago police he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack while walking through his affluent Chicago neighborhood . He alleged that on that chilly night, two assailants beat him up and tied a rope around his neck.

But as details emerged, Smollett was charged with plotting the attack.

With Smollett back in the spotlight, here are some questions and answers that will hold you in the long run.

Who is Jussie Smollett?

Actor and singer Jussie Smollett.

(Victoria Will / InVision / The Associated Press)

The Entangled Artist is a 39-year-old actor and musician whose star was on the rise when he was allegedly attacked in 2019. (She performed at Troubadour in West Hollywood just days after the alleged assault, telling the sold-out crowd, “I’m fine.”)

He is the brother of actor Jurnee Smollett (“Lovecraft Country,” “Birds of Prey”) and appeared in the films “The Mighty Ducks” and “Alien: Covenant” and the “Underground” TV series. He most famously played Jamal Lyon in the Fox series “Empire”, until he was unceremoniously rejected from the musical drama because of legal issues surrounding him.

The actor, whose “Empire” character was an openly gay musician, is also a black man and has advocated for LGBTQ rights throughout his career. That is, until public opinion turns against him and tarnishes his personal and professional prospects.

Here’s how it all started…

They say what happened on January 29, 2019?

Smollett claims that on January 29, 2019, around 2 a.m., two men wearing masks came up to him while he was walking in downtown Chicago, according to preliminary police reports. A statement from the Chicago Police Department at the time said the assailants hurled racial and homophobic abuses at her, hit her in the face, poured a bleach-like substance on her and tied a rope around her neck.

Authorities called the incident a possible hate crime, and Smollett, who initially received public support and sympathy, suffered clavicle and rib injuries and visited a hospital after the alleged assault. Still, though, some questioned whether he had fabricated the story.

Appearing on “Good Morning America” ​​in February 2019, Smollett said that he was getting food from a Subway restaurant while running in freezing temperatures, and was on the phone with his manager when his assailants began abusing him in the street. done.

Smollett alleged that he also shouted “This is MAGA country” in reference to former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He said he was punched and fought back. As they were fighting on the ice, his phone fell out of his pocket, but his friend was still in line.

The entertainer also addressed doubts about inconsistencies in his story and insisted that he “has been 100% factual and consistent on every level.”

In a written statement after the incident, he said, “Despite my disappointments and deep concern about certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations, I still believe that justice will be done.”

How did his story break?

When Smollett was asked to turn over his phone records, they were redacted and rejected as evidence because they did not meet the “burden of the criminal investigation”, Chicago police told The Times. Told. As surveillance video footage began to become public, suspicion grew. (A year later, a judge ordered Google to hand over Smollett’s emails, private messages, photographs and location data to a special prosecutor looking into why prosecutors abruptly dropped criminal charges against the actor. .)

Who are the Osundaro brothers?

two men in hat and sunglasses

Brothers Olabinjo Osundaro, right, and Abimbola Osundaro are seen outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on February 24, 2020 in Chicago.

(Charles Rex Arbogast / The Associated Press)

Just two weeks after the alleged incident, Chicago officials said the investigation into Smollett’s case had “shifted” when they questioned two Nigerian-born brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundaro, who were initially interested in the case. Were.

Osundairos’ home was raided, and he was detained for questioning after landing in Chicago after traveling to Nigeria. The color of his skin also directly contradicted Smollett’s suggestion that his alleged attackers were white.

Why does Chicago law enforcement dispute Smollett’s story?

Initially treating Smollett’s alleged assault as a possible hate crime, Chicago police concluded that he perpetrated the incident and classified him as a suspect in a criminal investigation. Then-Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the brothers confessed to the plot and that Smollett reportedly paid them $3,500 for the attack.

“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to boost his career,” Johnson told a news conference at the time, adding that the actor “was dissatisfied with his pay so he fabricated a story about being attacked.”

Smollett has said that the check – a key piece of evidence in the case – was written to Abimbola Osundaro for personal training and nutrition.

At trial on Tuesday, Chicago Police Detective Michael Theis, the principal investigator for the alleged assault, countered claims by defense attorneys that Chicago police had rushed to make a decision in the case. As the Associated Press reports, he said about two dozen detectives watched about 3,000 hours before the former “Empire” star had committed a hoax.

Theis said he initially viewed the actor as the victim of a homophobic and racist attack and that he was “absolutely” in no rush to make a decision.

When the trial began Monday, Smollett’s defense attorney, Nenny Uche, argued that Smollett was the “real victim” of the “real crime,” dismissing prosecutors’ allegations that he staged the attack after the TV studio where He worked, didn’t take the hate mail seriously he had received.

Uche said that the Osundairo brothers attacked Smollett because they didn’t like him and that the actor paid him to train for an upcoming music video. Uche also suggested that a third attacker was involved and told jurors that there was no “piece” of physical and forensic evidence linking Smollett to the crime prosecutors’ charge, the AP reported.

a man wearing sunglasses looks into the camera

Jussie Smollett arrives for a hearing in Chicago on March 14, 2019.

(Matt Marten / The Associated Press)

What were the initial charges against Smollett?

The Cook County state attorney’s office filed criminal charges against Smollett in February 2019 of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report and staging the January 29 attack.

Smollett then turned himself in to the Chicago Police, was arrested and released from the Cook County Jail after a judge determined a $100,000 bond.

Trump criticized Smollett on Twitter after hearing the news. And Cook County state attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation “out of caution” and “to address potential questions of fairness based on familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” her spokeswoman said.

Then, a little more than two weeks later, a Cook County grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct, for allegedly lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic assault. Various aspects of his alleged story are mentioned in several cases.

Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts and was free on a $100,000 bond.

But weren’t all charges dropped?

Yes. In short.

In a surprise move on March 26, 2019, Cook County prosecutors dropped the disorderly conduct charges leveled against Smollett. Prosecutors said they reviewed the facts and circumstances of the case, including Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and his agreement to seize part of his $10,000 bond in the city of Chicago. According to a statement provided to the Associated Press, he believed the outcome was “a fair disposition and a reasonable solution to the matter.”

No plea deal was reached, and the state dismissed the charges and sealed the case.

A statement released by the actor’s defense attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said Smollett’s record “has been cleared from the filing.”

But it didn’t sit well with law enforcement or then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who, along with city officials, ordered Smollett to pay $130,000 to cover the cost of the investigation. Smollett refused, and the city threatened civil action against Starr, who had by then been removed from his Fox TV show.

Why was the case reopened?

    a woman in a blue dress standing behind the lecture

Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx speaks at a February 22, 2019, news conference.

(Kichiro Sato / The Associated Press)

In June 2019, a Cook County judge ordered a special prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Dan K., to investigate how Smollett’s initial criminal case was handled. Web appointed.

In February 2020, Webb said it was unfair to escalate the case and reinstated the charges against Smollett, citing overwhelming evidence against the actor. According to the Associated Press, Webb decided to sue Smollett after Foxx and his office discovered “abuse of discretion and operational failures,” but concluded that he had done nothing criminal.

A grand jury in February 2020 indicted Smollett on six counts of felony for making a false statement about the incident. Smollett pleaded not guilty to the reinstated, low-level charges and stuck to his initial story.

As a Class 4 felony, the crime carries a prison sentence of up to three years, according to the Associated Press. Experts have said it is more likely that, if convicted, Smollett will be placed on probation and probably ordered to perform community service because of his lack of serious criminal background.

Why did it take so long to come to trial?

The revived criminal case has stalled as Illinois courts scaled back operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isn’t there a civil suit?

Yes, but civil litigation has been temporarily put on hold and criminal trial results are pending, a Chicago official told the Wall Street Journal. Smollett faces a lawsuit from the City of Chicago over money spent investigating his case. In November 2019, his lawyers filed a counterclaim against the city, arguing that by allowing the city to keep his bail money, the payment prevents it from collecting additional damages.

What has Smollett been doing since then?

“They won’t let it go,” Smollett said in an Instagram Live interview with Temple University professor Mark Lamont Hill in September 2020. “An example is being set, and the sad part is being set an example of someone who did not do what they are being accused of.”

Smollett has also said that he is participating in a “dog-and-tony show” revolving around the case.

Earlier this month, he appeared at the premiere of “B-Boy Blues” in Harlem to promote his directorial feature film debut.

The actors appeared in court on Monday when jury selection for the criminal trial began. He arrived with his sister Journey folded arms, and several members of the family witnessed the start of the trial in court.

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