The former “Empire” actor, who is Black and gay, has repeatedly denied staging an attack on himself, insisting two men struck him, yelled anti-gay and racist remarks, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him on a cold January 2019 night in the Windy City.
A disorderly conduct charge for a false crime report is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. A judge would determine whether convictions on multiple counts would yield sentences that run concurrently or consecutively.
The trial begins to wrap a case that captivated a nation for weeks in pre-pandemic times, and has been anything but a boon to Smollett’s acting career.
How the case unfolded
The actor said one of the men shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to then-President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, according to police.
Tracing their steps in reverse, investigators tracked them to a cab ride, and then a rideshare car. A check on that rideshare order ultimately led police to identify the men as brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, authorities said.
The brothers flew to Nigeria hours after the alleged attack. When they flew back to Chicago on February 13, 2019, investigators met them at customs when they returned, authorities said.
Phone records indicated Smollett talked to the brothers about an hour before the alleged attack, an hour afterward, and after they left the country for Nigeria, authorities said.
In March 2019, Smollett attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said Smollett did pay the brothers, but only for “nutrition and training.”
Smollett’s attorneys always maintained he was innocent. That same month the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx suddenly dropped all charges.
“This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion,” the statement reads. “That is wrong. It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect.”
Johnson and Chicago’s then-mayor, Rahm Emanuel, expressed outrage over the dropped charges.
Latest set of charges filed after special prosecutor steps in
At the time, Smollett attorney Tina Glandian said the special prosecutor “has not found any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever related to the dismissal of the (first set of) charges against Mr. Smollett.”
“Rather, the charges were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence,” Glandian said.
Webb said the second grand jury’s investigation “revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred.”
Webb’s office also released a report in August 2020 saying there was evidence that county prosecutors had abused their discretion in dropping Smollett’s first charges, but also that there was no evidence supporting criminal charges against them.
CNN’s Bill Kirkos, Bard Parks, Ryan Young, Madeline Holcombe, Holly Yan, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Omar Jimenez
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