Former Empire star Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to new charges that he lied to Chicago police while reporting what authorities believe is a staged hate crime. While appearing in court on Monday, Smollett’s legal team were prepared to fight the six counts of disorderly conduct, which include allegedly filing separate false police reports. The charges stem from a special prosecutor investigation that reopened the seemingly shut case following the strange circumstances that surrounded the case being surprisingly dropped by city officials.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Smollet’s attorneys are also seeking to have the indictment thrown out and the court order establishing Dan Webb as special prosecutor to be vacated, but experts don’t believe these attempts will be successful. The prosecution has the cooperation of the two brothers who were allegedly hired by Smollett, and both were present in court when the actor gave his plea:
Across the packed courtroom gallery sat brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, key prosecution witnesses who told police Smollett paid them to stage the attack. The defense has, in turn, accused them of actually beating Smollett and then lying to police about what happened.
Gloria Schmidt, who represents the Osundairo brothers, said they came to court to “support the process” and indicated that they would also be observing future court dates — a highly unusual move for such key witnesses.
The brothers have been truthful throughout the process, including in recent interviews with the special prosecutor’s office, Schmidt said.
The hearing is another chapter in the roller coaster that began back in January 29, 2019 when Smollett told Chicago Police that he was allegedly attacked by two men in MAGA hats who tied a noose around his neck and threw bleach on him. The alleged attack prompted an avalanche of support for Smollett from celebrities and social media advocates before turning ugly as cracks began to appear in his story.
Less than a month after the alleged attack, Smollett was arrested on felony charges for filing a false police report, which prompted his co-stars to demand the actor be fired from Empire as celebrities walked back their support. However, the situation took a turn when all of the charges against Smollett was dropped even as prosecutors said he was “not innocent,” and the chaos only grew more out of control as President Donald Trump called Smollett an “embarrassment to our nation.”
By October 2019, the Smollett attack had seemingly faded to the background as his legal team fought attempts by the city to recoup expenses from the investigation. But with the actor back in court fighting a new slew of charges and the prosecution having the full cooperation of his alleged co-conspirators, the hot button issue is poised to rise from the ashes and ignite social media once more.
(Via Chicago Tribune)