Jussie Smollett's lawyer insists he was victim of 'real crime' as trial begins

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  • Jussie Smollett
    Jussie Smollett
    American actor

Jussie Smollett's lawyer insisted the actor was the victim of a "real" hate crime as his trial began on Monday.

The Empire actor hit headlines in January 2019 when he told police that he had been attacked outside his apartment in Chicago by two men who made racist and homophobic slurs. In a staggering turn of events, Smollett was then charged with filing a false police report the following month. The charges were originally dropped in 2019 but he was indicted once again in early 2020 after a special investigation and now faces six counts of disorderly conduct.

On the first day of his felony trial in Chicago, a lawyer for the star argued in his opening remarks that he was the "real victim" of a "real crime," refuting previous accounts that the actor staged a racist and homophobic attack against himself.

The attorney, Nenye Uche, believed the two brothers that allegedly attacked Smollett, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, went after him because they "didn't like him." A cheque that the actor paid the two brothers was for training for a music video, according to Uche. The attorney also suggested that a third attacker was involved and insisted there was no physical or forensic evidence that implicated the 39-year-old actor in the crime.

Dan Webb, the special prosecutor appointed to the case, repeated previous reports that the actor "recruited the brothers to help him carry out a fake attack, then reported it to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime and spent 3,000 staff hours on the investigation," according to AP.

Webb insisted that Smollett staged the attack because the studio that produced Empire had not taken hate mail he received seriously. According to AP, the prosecutor said that the two brothers involved had worked with Smollett on the drama and had a "dress rehearsal" of the scenario prior to the night of the events.

Uche pushed back at the characterisation, saying that the brothers involved were "unreliable" and that Smollett's story had been consistent throughout.

The Marshall star attended the hearing with family members. If convicted, he could serve up to three years in prison.

The trial continues.

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