Story at a glance
- ”Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is on trial this week for allegedly staging a hate crime against himself.
- Prosecutors allege Smollett hired two men to stage a fake hate crime and paid them $3,500.
- The prosecution is relying on multiple sources of video footage, including evidence that shows Smollett executing a dress rehearsal of the attack.
Actor Jussie Smollett is on trial for allegedly staging a hate crime against himself, and the prosecution has potentially damaging video evidence implicating Smollett.
The trial began this week in Chicago where Smollett faces six counts of disorderly conduct, carrying up to a three-year prison sentence, over an alleged hate crime attack that took place in 2019. The prosecution says Smollett was the mastermind behind the attack, hiring two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to stage a racist and homophobic attack to stir up desired attention from Smollett’s bosses.
Smollett, 39, who is Black and gay, was an actor on the TV show “Empire,” which was filmed in Chicago. He previously received a hate letter while filming, but it didn’t receive the strong reaction he desired from producers, according to prosecutors, which is what motivated him to orchestrate the staged hate crime attack.
During his opening statement, special prosecutor Dan Webb teased video footage of Smollett executing a “dress rehearsal” of the hate crime attack with the Osundairo brothers, according to The Associated Press.
On Tuesday, jurors were shown other critical surveillance video of the Osundairo brothers buying supplies allegedly used in the hate crime against Smollett. Those supplies included a red hat, which the brothers say Smollett specifically asked them to wear to resemble supporters of former President Trump, as well as ski masks and a piece of clothesline.
Police body camera footage was also shared in court, worn by Chicago police officer Muhammed Baig. Smollett could be seen with a noose around his neck minutes after police arrived at the scene, according to local news.
Webb’s team is also arguing that Smollett paid for the staged attack, cutting a $3,500 check to the Osundairo brothers and giving them $100 to buy the necessary supplies.
However, Smollett’s defense team has argued that the hate crime attack did in fact take place and was not staged. Nenye Unche, Smollett’s attorney, said the evidence shown in court, “will show a tremendous rush to judgment by various police officials.”
“At the end of the day they want you to believe Jussie was stupid enough to pay for a hoax with a check but was smart enough to pay (for supplies) with a $100 bill,” said Unche.
A key factor in the case will be the testimony of the Osundairo brothers, who, according to local news, admitted to Chicago police that the hate crime had been faked. The brothers said that Smollett convinced them to stage the attack, hoping it would stir more action from his bosses at “Empire.”
The brothers also filed a defamation suit against two of Smollett’s attorneys in 2019, shortly after news of the hate crime being allegedly staged surfaced. The suit alleges that Smollett’s attorneys made false and harmful allegations about the brothers to the public to distract from Smollett’s own guilt. They also claim the comments have affected both brothers’ careers, having lost talent agent contracts and career opportunities.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled to take about a week.
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