The long road traveled in the Jussie Smollett case finally culminated in trial last week in Chicago, more than two years after police first alleged that the actor lied about being the victim of a hate crime and wrongly diverted weeks of investigative manpower.
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.
Authorities have argued for evidence, including texts and accounts from two Smollett acquaintances, that Smollett paid the couple to brutalize him, so that he could attract publicity and a career boost – a story Smollett denied.
A 12-person jury was selected in just over six hours last Monday for the trial, in which Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of misconduct on suspicion of making false reports to police. He pleaded not guilty.
Opening statements began after the jury sat down, with prosecutors telling jurors the actor was complicit in his own “bogus hate crime”, while defense attorneys claimed Smollett was a “victim.”
Special Prosecutor Daniel Webb claimed in his opening statements that Smollett devised a “secret plan” in January 2019 with brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo to make it appear that a hate crime had been committed against him by supporters of Donald Trump and to make the producers of his old TV show take more seriously an alleged “hate” letter he received.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche addressed the jury directly, saying there was an “elephant” in the courtroom, and “we will call this elephant: hypotheses.”
“Jussie Smollett is a victim – it’s a shame I have to say this,” Uche said. “This rush for judgment destroyed Jussie’s life.”