Court Battles

Jury in Jussie Smollett trial begins deliberations

Matt Marton/ AP
In this Feb. 24, 2020, file photo, former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. 

The jury in the Jussie Smollett trial began deliberations Wednesday afternoon and did not reach a verdict before breaking for the night, the Associated Press reported.

Jurors will reconvene on Thursday in the Chicago court.

Smollett, known for his role in the hit show “Empire,” is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of an anti-gay, anti-black attack in January 2019.

Prosecutors spent the past week arguing Smollett, who is Black and gay, deliberately staged a fake hate crime and assault by hiring two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to attack him.

The brothers testified that they were hired by Smollett, with the actor giving them precise instructions on where to be and how to hit him. Prosecutors also showed surveillance video of Smollett allegedly rehearsing the attack with the brothers.

Police say they wasted money and resources on a hoax that Smollett, 39, perpetrated in order to gain publicity. Prosecutor Dan Webb said Smollett wanted attention because colleagues and managers seemed disinterested in a hateful letter sent to him at the studio filming “Empire.”

The defense rested their case on Tuesday. Smollett, who faces up to three years in prison, argued the attack was not a hoax and that the Osundairo brothers were lying.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche said the brothers committed the act out of hatred and homophobia, or could have been trying to create a sense of danger and urgency in order to be hired as Smollett’s security, the AP reported.

The actor claimed a $3,500 check he wrote for the brothers was for other expenses, and that he had sexual relations with one of the brothers, who denied the claim.

Smollett called police about an alleged assault on Jan. 29, 2019, claiming someone shouted a racist and homophobic slur against him and shouted “MAGA country” in reference to former President Donald Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again.” The actor then claims he was punched in the head and kicked before a noose was thrown around his neck and the assaulters ran away.

Prosecutors questioned why Smollett did not turn over his cellphone or cooperate with officers during the investigation. The actor said he did not trust police.

Tags anti-black anti-gay Chicago Chicago Police Department court trial Donald Trump Empire Hate crimes Illinois Jury deliberations Jussie Smollett prosecution
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