The criminal trial for actor Jussie Smollett is slated to begin on Monday, nearly three years after the former “Empire” star allegedly staged a hate crime.
Smollett, 39, was charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report after allegedly arranging a hate crime against himself.
The actor claimed that he was hit by two men in Chicago in January 2019, and that they tied a noose around his neck and shouted racist, homophobic and pro-Trump rallying cries. However, investigators found that the two men who allegedly performed the attack were brothers who knew the actor, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The actor pleaded not guilty to staging the attack in February 2020. Jury selection is slated to begin on Monday.
Smollett faces up to three years in prison, though some experts have said that if the actor is found guilty he will likely avoid jail time and be placed on probation and perhaps given community service, according to The Associated Press.
Smollett allegedly recruited Abimbola Osundairo, an acquaintance of his, to carry out the attack because the actor was frustrated over his pay, according to the Journal.
Smollett reportedly paid the men who attacked him a $3,500 check to split, which was deposited in their bank accounts the day before the attack.
The two men attacked Smollett a little after 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019, which prompted the actor to file a police report that is now believed to be false.
Smollett’s trial was delayed a number of times after the charges against him were dropped then refiled, and following a probe into Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the case, according to the Journal.
Foxx is said to have communicated with someone from Smollett’s family in the early part of the investigation, according to the AP, which prompted her to recuse herself from the case. After that, however, her office suddenly dropped the charges.
The COVID-19 pandemic also reportedly contributed to the trial’s delay.
Smollett is also the target of a civil lawsuit brought by the city of Chicago, which is taking issue with the large costs it incurred looking into the allegedly fake hate crime, according to the Journal. The lawsuit is asking the actor to pay costs, damages and attorneys’ fees associated with his case.
A Chicago official told the Journal that the lawsuit, which was moved from local court to federal district court in 2019, has been stayed pending the criminal trial.