Jussie Smollett Trial Begins: Ex-‘Empire’ Star Is “The Real Victim,” Defense Tells Jury; Prosecutor Slams “Fake Hate Crime”

c-title pmc-u-font-size-20 pmc-u-font-size-38@tablet pmc-u-font-size-46@desktop-xl u-text-align-center@mobile-max u-letter-spacing-0025 pmc-u-line-height-normal u-line-height-45@tablet pmc-u-padding-t-1 pmc-u-padding-t-050@mobile-max”>Jussie Smollett Trial Begins: Ex-‘Empire’ Star Is “The Real Victim,” Defense Tells Jury; Prosecutor Slams “Fake Hate Crime”

By Dominic Patten

Dominic Patten

Senior Editor, Legal & TV Critic

@DeadlineDominic

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November 29, 2021 6:52pm

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AP

The opening day of former Empire star Jussie Smollett’s felony trial in Chicago was long and painted two very different portraits of what actually went down in January 2019.

Citing a “tremendous rush to judgment” over the seeming unraveling of Smollett’s version of the early winter morning racial and politically motivated attack on the Windy City streets, defense attorney Nenye Uche declared in his opening statement that “Jussie Smollett is a real victim.”

That remark in front of a freshly selected and seated jury in Judge James Linn’s Cook County courtroom came on a nearly 11-hour day in what is expected to be a weeklong trial.

Facing half a dozen disorderly conduct counts, Smollett could be heading behind bars for up to three years if found guilty. Yet, even in a case that has seen pretzel like twists, dismissal of the original charges, a slap on the wrist, outrage, personal checks, the end of the Danny Strong and Lee Daniels created Fox drama, and a special prosecutors over the past 34 months, Smollett will probably not serve any prison time.

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“He devised this fake hate crime to take place so that the Empire studio would take this more seriously because this fake hate crime would get media attention” Daniel Webb told the jury of eight men and seven women in his own opening statement Monday of Smollett’s presumed motivation in staging the phony attack after receiving “actual” hate mail in early 2019.

With today going from around 9:30 AM to 7 PM Chicago time, Judge Linn has warned jurors, court officials and flocking media to get used to the long days in what appears to be a pretty obvious attempt to get this wrapped up soon-ish.

At first generating calls of compassion from almost all corners, the details of the assault on Smollett on January 29 fast tracked the actor who played middle son Jamal Lyon on the blockbuster Empire to a late-night punchline and online joke. The revelation that Smollett paid brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo $3,500 just before the attack occurred and the siblings confessing their part in the scheme after hours under interrogation by Chicago police turned a light-handed legal system and public opinion against the actor.

The Osundairos will take the stand this week, but it is unknown if Smollett himself will testify.

Despite Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office tossing out the original case against Smollett after he forfeited a $10,000 bail, ex-Iran Contra lawyer Webb was brought on board as a special prosecutor in August 2019. In February 2020, as Smollett lost out trying to get the new probes dismissed, Webb indicted the actor on the current six felonies, which includes filing a false police report.

Like so many cases in America the past 18 months, the trial was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now it seems Judge Linn is determined to make up for lost time

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