Jussie Smollett was “real victim” of racist attack, lawyer says at start of trial

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Jussie Smollett “is a real victim” of a “real crime,” his lawyer said in opening statements at the ex-Empire actor on Monday, dismissing prosecutors’ allegation he organized an attack homophobic and racist in Chicago.

Defense lawyer Nenye Uche said two brothers attacked Smollett in January 2019 because they didn’t like him, and that a check for $ 3,500 the actor paid the men was for training so he can prepare for an upcoming music video, not as payment for staging a hate crime, as prosecutors claim. Uche also suggested that a third assailant was involved and told jurors there was not a “shred” of physical and forensic evidence linking Smollett to the prosecutors’ allegations.

“Jussie Smollett is a real victim,” Uche said.

Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said the actor recruited the brothers to help him carry out a fake attack and then reported it to the Chicago police, who called it a heinous crime and spent 3,000 hours of work to the survey. Smollett said he was attacked by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a report that sparked political and ideological divisions across the country.

“When he reported the bogus hate crime, it was a real crime,” Webb said.

Smollett is charged with the disorderly driving misdemeanor carrying a jail term of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if Smollett is found guilty he would be placed on probation and possibly sentenced to perform community service.

Webb told jurors that Smollett was not happy with the way the studio handled the letter he received. The letter included a drawing of a snowman hanging from a tree and “Maga,” a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan, Webb said.

He said Smollett then concocted the fake attack and had a “dress rehearsal” with the two brothers, who worked on the “Empire” set with Smollett, including telling them to shout racial and homophobic slurs and “Maga”. Smollett also told the brothers to buy ski masks, red hats and a rope, Webb told jurors.

“He told them to use a rope to make it look like a hate crime,” Webb said.

But Uche said Smollett turned down additional security when the studio offered it. He also described the brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, as unreliable, saying their story had changed unlike Smollett’s.

Whether Smollett, who is black and gay, will testify remains an open question. But the brothers and sisters will take the witness stand. Jurors can also see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police examined to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as video showing the brothers buying supplies hours earlier. .

Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from a resident who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be expecting someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see what appeared to be a rope hanging under her jacket.”

His comments could support Smollett’s claim that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Additionally, if she testified that the man was white, it would corroborate Smollett’s claims – widely ridiculed because the brothers are black – that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers. .

The trial is expected to last a week.

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