Jussie Smollett trial
Almost three years after Jussie Smollett was accused of staging a fake hate crime against himself, the actor is going on trial.
Jury selection in the trial of Smollett, known for his role on the Fox series Empire, begins Monday. He faces charges of disorderly conduct after allegedly making false statements to police. In 2019, Smollett alleged two men attacked him in Chicago, yelling homophobic and racist slurs and placing a noose around his neck. He also said they yelled, "This is MAGA country." But police later alleged he staged the attack as a "publicity stunt" because he was unhappy with his salary, and two men, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, claim Smollett paid them $3,500 to help stage the attack.
Criminal charges against Smollett were abruptly dropped in March 2019. But after a special prosecutor was appointed in the case, the actor was indicted by a grand jury in 2020 on six counts for allegedly "making four separate false reports to Chicago Police Department officers related to his false claims that he was the victim of a hate crime, knowing that he was not the victim of a crime." A grand jury investigation concluded he "planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack," the special prosecutor said.
Smollett, who was removed from Empire in the wake of the allegations, pleaded not guilty and has continued to maintain his innocence. His attorney says he paid Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo for "nutrition and training."
Smollett faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison, although the Chicago Sun-Times reports it appears likely he would receive a lesser sentence or probation should he be convicted. According to The Associated Press, both Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo are expected to testify in the trial and reportedly plan to tell jurors that Smollett allegedly took them to the spot where the attack would happen as a "dress rehearsal." It's unclear whether Smollett will testify.