Jussie Smollett’s lawyer said the former ‘Empire’ star was ‘a real victim’ of a crime on Monday, while prosecutors say he staged a hate crime during closing arguments. Smollett’s trial begins in Chicago.
Smollett “developed a secret plan that would make it look like there was actually a hate crime committed against him by supporters of Donald Trump,” special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Webb criticized Smollett’s allegedly false police report as a “despicable act” that “disparages something as serious as a hate crime”.
Smollett was charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report in 2019 after police said he staged a fake hate crime.
Smollett told cops he was attacked in the early morning of Jan. 29, 2019, by two white men who beat him, put a noose around his neck, shouted racist and homophobic slurs and said “C is MAGA country!” while he went out to get a sandwich.
Smollett’s defense lawyer, Nenye Uche, has alleged that “a real crime” was committed against the actor by two Nigerian brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, whom Smollett met on the set of “Empire”. and who had attacked him because they “didn’t like him as a person.”
The Osundairos were taken into custody but released after telling police that Smollett had paid them to stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary. Smollett was arrested a few days later.
The two brothers are expected to testify as star witnesses for the prosecution and will admit that they paid them $3,500 to stage the hate crime and pose as his attackers. The brothers cashed the check the morning of the attack, prosecutors said.
Webb argued that Smollett was angry that Fox didn’t react strongly enough to a hate letter he received in January 2019.
He said Smollett hired the two brothers to help stage the crime and even had a “dress rehearsal” beforehand. He also said to put a noose around his neck to “make it look more like a lynching, a hate crime.”
According to Webb, Smollett texted the brothers saying, “I want you to attack me, but when you hit me, I want you to take your punches back a bit because I don’t want to get seriously hurt.”
Uche argued that the money was for personal training for an upcoming music video, not payment for staging a hate crime. He also said he believed there was a third suspected attacker. He argued that there was “not the slightest” physical or forensic evidence linking Smollett to the crime as well as no evidence that Smollett was upset about his role or salary at “Empire”.
“From the very first moment, the truth of Jussie, what he said happened, has remained constant, it has remained consistent, it has not changed,” he said, accusing the brothers Osundairo for changing their history.
The defense is expected to further argue that the brothers planned to attack Smollett and said it was a set-up to avoid prosecution.
Webb said Chicago police assigned 26 officers to work on the case, racking up more than 3,000 man hours.
Twelve jurors and three alternates were sworn in Monday night for a trial that Judge James Linn said is expected to last about a week.
It is not yet known whether Smollett will testify.
If convicted of the Class 4 felony charges, the actor could face up to three years in prison, but legal experts said he would not face punishment beyond probation and possibly works of general interest.
With pole wires