CHICAGO – A popular actor hits the street and is brutally reminded that despite his fame and wealth, there exist places where his skin color and sexual orientation put him at risk.
The story spread around the world after a black and openly gay actor, Jussie Smollett, reported to Chicago police that he was the victim of a hate crime.
Nearly three years later, Smollett is about to stand trial on the allegation that he staged the whole thing.
He was charged with a felony after law enforcement and prosecutors said he lied to police about what happened in downtown Chicago on the morning of January 29, 2019. He has pleaded not guilty. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday. Disorderly conduct, a Class 4 felony, carries a sentence of up to three years in prison, but experts have said it is more likely that if convicted, Smollett will be placed on probation and perhaps sentenced to perform community service. will be ordered.
Smollett told police he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at 2 a.m. when two men, identified with the TV show “Empire,” began hurling racial and homophobic abuses at him. He said the men hit him, put a makeshift noose around his neck and shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
The response to his alleged attack underscored an increasingly polarized political landscape; Democratic politicians and others called it a shocking example of Trump-era bigotry and hatred, while Republicans accused liberals of rushing to paint the president’s supporters as racist.
Just weeks later came the surprising announcement that Smollett had been accused of assault in order to advance his career and earn a higher salary. And, police said, he hired two Nigerian brothers to pretend to attack him for $3,500.
This made Smollett’s headlines even brighter, but this time he was discredited as a man willing to use one of the most powerful symbols of racism in America to advance his career.
Judge John Fitzgerald Laike Jr., who is black, said during Smollett’s first court appearance, “If that’s true, the most despicable and disgusting part of it is the noose.” “That symbol has been the epitome of such evil in the history of this country.”
Smollett also became a national punch line. He was the subject of a “Saturday Night Live” skit and was ridiculed by many black celebrities, from NBA analyst Charles Barkley to comedian Dave Chappelle.
Then enraged that Smollett’s fame gave him an effect that is out of reach for most. Reports indicate that Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, at the request of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s one-time chief of staff, communicated with a member of Smollett’s family at the start of the investigation. Foxx recused himself from the case, then his office abruptly dropped the charges, and Foxx found himself at the center of a media firestorm after he denied the suggestion that his office had fired the television star. .
Turned a simple question of Smollett’s innocence or guilt into a complex legal saga that spanned nearly three years.
Testing was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which stalled cases across the country for months. But at the same time, charges were filed, dropped and re-filed by a special prosecutor, who was brought in to handle the case.
Smollett – whose career has since faded – will return to the glare of media headlines this week, but this time as he walks through a jungle of news cameras and makes his way off the court.
The producers of “Empire,” on which he starred for four years, renewed his contract in 2019 for a sixth and final season, but he never appeared in an episode. Nor has he released any music or given significant musical performances.
However, he has directed an independent film funded by his own production company, which premieres this month at the American Black Film Festival. The film, “B-Boy Blues”, is an adaptation of the 1994 novel about the lives of gay black men in New York, the first in the series.
But once in court, what will come out may seem like a bad movie, for the simple reason that a short film is exactly what the authorities have long tried to make Smollett.
The main witnesses will be the brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundaro, who say that Smollett wrote him a check for the attack. He is expected to portray Smollett in full view of a surveillance camera and the director of an “assault”, which he mistakenly believes to have recorded the entire incident.
And, according to their lawyer, the brothers will also describe how Smollett escorted them to the location where the event was to take place for a “dress rehearsal.”
“He was telling them ‘Here’s a camera, there’s a camera and here’s where you’re going to run away,'” his lawyer, Gloria Rodriguez, said.
Credit: www.nbcnews.com /