Crime & Law
Jussie Smollett Heads to Trial Years After Hoax Attack Allegations
Jussie Smollett Heads to Trial Years After Hoax Attack Allegations
Jul 23, 2024 4:17 PM

Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty at Leighton Criminal Court Building, Thursday, March 14, 2019. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Pool / Chicago Tribune)Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty at Leighton Criminal Court Building, Thursday, March 14, 2019. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Pool / Chicago Tribune)

The long and meandering path of Jussie Smollett’s criminal case — which over the past 34 months has seen two sets of charges, a special prosecutor and calls for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s job — heads back into the Leighton Criminal Court Building this week as the former “Empire” star will go to trial on charges that he orchestrated a hoax attack against himself.

Jury selection begins Monday before Judge James Linn, as Smollett will stand trial on six felony counts of disorderly conduct after he allegedly filed a false police report claiming to be the victim of a January 2019 attack by two men near his Streeterville apartment.

Smollett claimed the suspects had yelled racist and homophobic slurs before they hit him in his face, poured “an unknown chemical substance” on him and wrapped a rope around his neck. But following an investigation, Chicago police determined Smollett had hired the men — brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo — paying them $3,500 to stage the attack in an effort to boost his career.

That led to the first set of criminal charges against Smollett, who was arrested in February 2019. But weeks later, those charges were suddenly thrown out by Cook County prosecutors — a move that immediately sparked a firestorm of backlash against Foxx and her office, who were accused of giving preferential treatment to a celebrity.

Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson blasted that decision, saying they did not believe justice was served and that the city was owed an apology.

That same day, Smollett claimed he’d been “truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”

“I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of,” he told reporters after the charges were dismissed. “This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life.”

Foxx defended the move, saying her office handled the case the same way it would handle any low-level felony against a first-time offender.

But calls continued for an investigation into Foxx’s handling of the case, and in August 2019, a judge formally appointed veteran litigator Dan Webb as a special prosecutor on the case. Webb was tasked with reinvestigating both the Smollett incident and what happened within Foxx’s office that led to the first charges being dismissed.

In February 2020, a grand jury reindicted Smollett on new disorderly conduct charges — the ones he will stand trial for this week. Later that year, Webb’s team published a report, which found that while there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Foxx and her office had committed “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” in handling the initial case.

Throughout the case, Smollett has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence and has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Since the new charges were filed, his case has since been delayed repeatedly by the COVID-19 pandemic and various legal issues concerning Smollett’s defense team. While court proceedings in this case have largely occurred over Zoom due to the pandemic, the trial will be held in person in Linn’s seventh-floor courtroom.

Including jury selection, the trial is expected to last four to five days.

Contact Matt Masterson:@ByMattMasterson |[email protected]| (773) 509-5431

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