Jussie Smollett’s trial begins with jury selection in Chicago on Monday – .

Jussie Smollett’s trial begins with jury selection in Chicago on Monday – .

The former ‘Empire’ actor, who is black and gay, has repeatedly denied attacking himself, insisting that two men hit him, shouted anti-gay and racist remarks , had put a noose around her neck and poured bleach on a cold. Night of January 2019 in the Windy City.

A disorderly conduct charge for a false felony report is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of $ 25,000. A judge would determine whether convictions on multiple counts would result in concurrent or consecutive sentences.

It used to be that this case was not going to go to trial. The Cook County State Attorney’s Office unexpectedly dropped Smollett’s first round of charges – also of disorderly conduct – in March 2019 after doing community service and agreeing to waive the 10,000 bond. $ he had paid.

But it sparked a debate over whether Smollett had received preferential treatment, which led to a judge appointing a special prosecutor, former US prosecutor Dan K. Webb, to review him in August 2019. .

This led to a second grand jury which, in February 2020, indicted Smollett on the current charges. Smollett’s lawyers tried to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was double jeopardy – but Cook County Judge James Linn dismissed it because Smollett had not been tried.

The lawsuit begins to close a case that captivated a nation for weeks before the pandemic, and has been anything but a boon to Smollett’s acting career.

After friends, fans and Hollywood rallied around Smollett in horror that someone would attack him so brazenly, that support waned and many turned on him when police claimed he had put it on him. on stage. Smollett’s character was written from the Fox drama “Empire,” and although he has since directed and produced a movie, he has yet to star in another acting role on television or in the movies. .

The staging allegations have also led some to lament that it could unfairly cast doubt on future victims of hate crimes.

How the affair unfolded

Smollett told police two men attacked him outside near his Chicago apartment around 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019, as he returned from a Subway sandwich shop, authorities said. .

Smollett, who played a gay character in “Empire,” said the attackers shouted “‘Empire’ fa *** t ‘” and “‘ Empire ‘n *** er”, while hitting him, said the police. The incident ended with a noose around his neck and bleach spilled over him, police said.

The actor said one of the men shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to the then president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, police said.

Police initially investigated the case as a possible hate crime. Chicago Police Corps camera footage shows officers speaking with Smollett that day: As officers enter his apartment, he was seen wearing a sweater with a white rope tied in a knot flowing around his neck.

Police examined video from numerous city and private sector surveillance cameras. None captured the alleged attack itself, but investigators focused on footage of two people in the area at the time of the reported incident.

Retracing their steps in the opposite direction, the investigators followed them to a taxi ride, then a carpooling car. A check of the carpool order ultimately led to police identifying the men as brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, authorities said.

The brothers flew to Nigeria hours after the alleged attack. When they returned to Chicago on February 13, 2019, investigators met them at customs upon their return, authorities said.

February 2020: Jussie Smollett indicted on six counts of false reports, according to special prosecutor

After police arrested and questioned the Osundairo brothers, authorities said they had a different idea of ​​the case. On February 21, 2019, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced that Smollett was indicted, saying Smollett knew the men and paid them to organize the attack.

The brothers, who police said were extras on “Empire,” were released without charge and testified before a grand jury.

Johnson presented a series of allegations, including that, days before the assault, Smollett had first “attempted to attract attention by sending a bogus letter” to the “Empire” ensemble “which relied on on racial, homophobic and political language ”. It contained white powder and the design of a “stick hanging from a tree,” police said.

Police: SMS and carpooling helped uncover evidence in Jussie Smollett case

According to prosecutors this month, Smollett told one of the brothers he was disappointed with the “Empire” team’s reaction to the letter.

So Smollett paid the brothers $ 3,500 to attack him, to “use the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said when the initial charges were announced.

Investigators obtained a check that Smollett used to pay Abimbola Osundairo, prosecutors said at the time.

In support of their case, authorities cited text messages and tapes of phone calls between the parties. The electronic trail of the alleged conspiracy was dated January 25, 2019, when Smollett texted Abimbola Osundairo and told her, “You might need your help down there. Are you there to talk face to face? prosecutors alleged.

Smollett took the brothers near the site of the alleged attack, and they repeated it, before Smollett gave the brothers a $ 100 bill to buy clothes and rope for a noose, prosecutors said.

Phone records indicate that Smollett spoke to the brothers about an hour before the alleged attack, an hour after, and after they left the country for Nigeria, authorities said.

Smollett had wanted to draw attention to himself in part that he was “dissatisfied with his salary,” Johnson said.

In March 2019, Smollett’s lawyer Patricia Brown Holmes said Smollett paid the brothers, but only for “nutrition and training.”

“They were her coaches,” she said.

Smollett was first charged – with 16 counts of misconduct – in March 2019 and pleaded not guilty.

Smollett’s lawyers have always maintained that he was innocent. That same month, Cook County State Attorney’s Office Kim Foxx suddenly dropped all charges.

Brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo flew to Nigeria hours after the alleged attack.

Lead prosecutor in the case at the time, Joseph Magats, said his team viewed Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and his willingness to waive his $ 10,000 bond. He also noted that Smollett hadn’t committed any crime and was not a danger to the community – but he told CNN affiliate WLS that that didn’t mean Smollett was exonerated.

“We believe he did what he was accused of doing,” Magats told WLS.

On the day the charges were dropped, Smollett’s lawyers released a statement claiming the actor was “a victim who was vilified and portrayed as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public, causing a rush. inappropriate towards judgment ”.

“This whole situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion,” the statement said. ” It’s wrong. It’s a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. “

Johnson and then Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed outrage over the drop in charges.

“It is without a doubt a laundering of justice and sends a clear message that if you are in a position of influence and power, you will be treated in a way. Other people will be treated in another way, ”Emanuel said in March 2019..

Latest round of charges laid after special prosecutor intervened

A retired Illinois appeals judge has finally launched a motion to appoint a special prosecutor to verify how Cook County prosecutors have handled the case and to decide whether Smollett should still be prosecuted.

A Chicago judge appointed Webb as a special prosecutor in August 2019. Webb took the case to a second grand jury, which indicted Smollett with the final charges in February 2020.

At the time, Smollett’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, said the special prosecutor “found no evidence of wrongdoing related to the dismissal of the (first series of charges) against Mr. Smollett.”

“On the contrary, the charges were appropriately dismissed the first time around because they were not supported by evidence,” Glandian said.

Smollett pleaded not guilty two weeks later.

Webb said the second grand jury investigation “revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, then made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions,” reporting a heinous hate crime that he actually knew he had did not happen. “

He decided to sue Smollett for several reasons, “including the extensive nature of Mr. Smollett’s false police reports and the resources expended by the Chicago Police Department to investigate those false reports,” Webb said in a statement. prepared in February 2020.

Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, who represented the Osundairo brothers, said the brothers were sorry for their role and that they would “continue to cooperate with” a process to help the public know the truth.

Webb’s office also released a report in August 2020 stating that there was evidence that county prosecutors had abused their discretion in dropping Smollett’s first charges, but also that there was no evidence. in support of the criminal charges against them.

Foxx’s office released a statement this month saying Webb’s findings ended “any involvement of outside influence or criminal activity on the part of the Cook County State Attorney’s Office.” The statement also said that Foxx’s office categorically rejected Webb’s “credentials of his exercises of prosecutorial discretion and his private or public statements as” abuse of discretion. ” ”

Bill Kirkos de CNN, Bard Parks, Ryan Young, Madeline Holcombe, Holly Yan, Eliott C. McLaughlin et Omar Jimenez


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