The long road in the Jussie Smollett case finally reached trial last week in Chicago, more than two years after police first alleged the actor lied about being a hate crime victim and wrongly diverting weeks of an investigative workforce.
The former “Empire” actor, who is black and gay, has repeatedly denied an attack on himself, insisting that two men beat him, shouting homophobic and racist comments, putting a noose around his neck and pouring bleach on him in a cold. January 2019 night in the Windy City.
Authorities argued evidence, including texts and accounts from two of Smollett’s acquaintances, that Smollett paid the couple to harass him, so that he could attract publicity and advance his career – an account that Smollett denied.
A jury of 12 people picked up in just over six hours last Monday for trial, charged Smollett, 39, with six counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false police reports. He has pleaded not guilty.
The opening statements began after the jury was seated, with prosecutors telling jurors that the actor was an accomplice in his “pseudo-hate crime,” while defense attorneys allege Smollett was a “victim.”
Special Prosecutor Daniel Webb claimed in opening statements that Smollett devised a “secret plan” in January 2019 with brothers Abembola and Olabingo Osondaero to make it look like a hate crime committed against him by Donald Trump supporters and to get the producers of his former TV show to take it. More seriously, he received an alleged “hate” message.
Defense attorney Nene Uchi opened directly to the jury, saying there was an “elephant” in the courtroom, and “we’ll call that elephant: the presumptions.”
“Josie Smollett is a victim – it’s such a shame to say,” O’Shea said. “This rush to judgment ruined Josie’s life.”