CHICAGO — Jussie Smollett is “a real victim” of a “real crime,” her attorney said, as the former “Empire” actor’s trial began Monday, dismissing prosecutors’ allegations that she was a homophobic and abusive in Chicago after television The studio where he worked had staged the racist attack that did not take hate mail seriously.

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Defense attorney Nenny Uche said the two brothers attacked Smollett in January 2019 because they didn’t like him and that it was a $3,500 check

The actor had paid for training the men so that he could prepare for an upcoming music video – not as payment for staging a hate crime, as prosecutors allege. Uche also suggested that a third attacker was involved and told jurors that there was no “piece” of physical and forensic evidence linking Smollett to the crime prosecutors’ charge.


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

Special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors that Uche made his opening statement after the actor recruited the brothers to help carry out the fake attack, then reported it to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime. and spent 3,000 employee hours on investigation. Smollett told police that he was attacked by supporters of then-President Donald Trump – igniting political divisions across the country.

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Webb, named as special prosecutor after the original charges filed against Smollett were dropped by Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx’s office, “when he reported the fake hate crime, which was a real crime.” A new indictment was brought back in 2020.

Smollett, who arrived at a Chicago courthouse Monday with his mother and other family members, has been charged with felony murder. A Class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if convicted, Smollett will be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

Webb told jurors that Smollett was unhappy with how the studio handled a letter he received that included a stick figure hanging from a tree and “MAGA”, a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan. Is. Webb said police have not determined who wrote the letter.

However, Uche countered that Smollett had turned down the additional protection when the studio offered it.

Webb said that Smollett then “formed up this fake crime,” while conducting a “dress rehearsal” with the two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundaro, asking them to use racial and homophobic slurs and shouting “MAGA.” Smollett also asked the brothers — who worked on the “Empire” set — to buy ski masks, red hats and “a rope to make it look like a hate crime,” Webb told jurors. Webb said the brothers used a $100 bill that Smollett had given them to buy supplies.

He said Smollett wanted the attack to be captured on surveillance video, but the camera he thought would record the hoax was pointed in the wrong direction. He also said that the original plan called for men to throw gasoline at Smollett, but they opted for bleach instead because it would be safer.

Whether Smollett, who is Black and Gay, will testify remains an open question. But the brothers and sisters will take the stand of Sakshi.

Uche portrays the brothers as unreliable, saying that their story has changed while Smollett’s has not, and that when police searched their home they found heroin and guns.

“They’re going to lie to your face,” Uche told the jury.

Uche also said that the evidence would “show an overwhelming rush to judgments by various police officers,” and added that prosecutors’ claims about paying for the counterfeit assault by check make no sense.

“At the end of the day they want you to believe that Jussie was foolish enough to pay for fraud with a check, but smart enough to pay (for supplies) with a $100 bill,” he said. said.

Buried in nearly 500 pages of the Chicago Police Department report is a statement from an area resident who says he saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who was involved in Uche’s suggestion that another attacker might be involved. The night was waiting for someone. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she could see “what looked like a rope hanging from under her jacket.”

Her remarks may support Smollett’s argument that his assailants had wrapped a temporary noose around his neck. Furthermore, if he testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements – widely ridiculed because the brothers from Nigeria are black – that he had yellow eyes around the eyes of one of his masked attackers. Or saw white skin.

Twelve jurors and two substitutes were sworn in late Monday for a trial that Judge James Lynn said he expected to take about a week. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom and proceedings are not being livestreamed, unlike other recent high-profile trials.

Jury members can view surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported assault, as well as a video showing the brothers hours before. The purchase of supplies is visible. Webb reported that jurors have hundreds of hours of video with prosecutors, and a still shot from a camera near Smollett’s condo that shows him walking up the stairs after the alleged assault, with a cloth around his neck. and is still carrying a sandwich he bought that evening.


This story has been updated to correct that not three, but two options swore.