Jussie Smollett’s attorney said the former “Empire” star was “a real victim” of a crime on Monday while prosecutors said he staged a hate crime during the opening arguments of Smollett’s trial in Chicago.
Smollett “developed a secret plan that would make it appear that there was actually a hate crime that actually occurred against him by supporters of Donald Trump,” special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors,.
Webb slammed Smollett’s allegedly false police report as a “despicable act” that “denigrated something as serious as a hate crime.”
Smollett was charged with six felony counts of disorderly conduct forin 2019 after police say he staged a fake hate crime.
Smollett told cops he was attacked in the early morning on Jan. 29, 2019 by two white men who beat him up, put a noose around his neck, yelled racist and homophobic slurs and told him “This is MAGA country!” while he was out getting a sandwich.
Smollett’s defense attorney Nenye Uche alleged “a real crime” was committed against the actor by two brothers from Nigeria, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, whom Smollett had met on the set of “Empire” who attacked him because they “did not like him as a person.”
The Osundairos were taken into custody but released after they told police Smollett had paid them to stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary. Smollett was arrested days later.
The two brothers are expected to testify as the prosecution’s star witnesses, and will admit they paid them $3,500 to stage the hate crime and pose as his assailants. The brothers cashed the check the morning of the attack, prosecutors said.
Webb argued that Smollett was angry that Fox did not react strongly enough to a hate letter he received in January 2019.
He said Smollett hired the two brothers to help stage the crime and even had a “dress rehearsal” beforehand. He also said to put a rope around his neck to “make it look more like a lynching, like a hate crime.”
According to Webb, Smollett sent a text message to the brothers that said: “I want you to attack me, but when you hit me, I want you to kind of pull your punches a bit because I don’t want to get seriously hurt.”
Uche argued that the money was for personal training for an upcoming music video, and not payment for staging a hate crime. He also said he believes there was an alleged third attacker. He maintained that there is “not a shred” of physical or forensic evidence tying Smollett to the crime as well as no evidence that Smollett was upset with his role or salary at “Empire.”
“From the very first moment, Jussie’s truth, what he said happened, has remained constant, it has remained consistent, it has not changed,” he said, accusing the Osundairo brothers of changing their story.
The defense is expected to argue further that the brothers had planned to attack Smollett, and said it was a set up to avoid prosecution.
Webb said the Chicago Police designated 26 officers to work on the case, racking up over 3,000 man hours.
were sworn in late Monday for a trial that Judge James Linn said he expects to take about one week.
It’s unclear yet if Smollett will testify.
If convicted on the class 4 felony charges, the actor could face up to three years in prison, however legal experts said he’s not likely to face any punishment beyond probation and possibly some community service.
With Post Wires
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