Empire’s Jussie Smollett Goes To Trial

Jussie Smollett has been caught in the middle of a lengthy battle with the Chicago Police Department. Three years later, Smollett finds himself in a Chicago courtroom.

By Erika Hanson | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

Jussie Smollett

There are plenty of strange and bizarre criminal stories involving celebrity trials, but none may be as bizarre and baffling as the alleged attacks against the former Empire star, Jussie Smollett. The 39-year-old has been caught in the middle of a lengthy battle with the Chicago Police Department following an alleged hate crime turned alleged staged stunt by the actor that has been ongoing since 2019. Three years later, Smollett finds himself in a Chicago courtroom, as the actor goes to trial for six counts of disorderly conduct. 

The Chicago Tribune reports that Jussie Smollett — dressed in a dark suit and a dark face mask — walked into the courtroom of Judge James Linn with two supporters flanking him and holding on to both of his arms. Smollett is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports to investigators in 2019 when he told police he was the victim of a racial and homophobic driven attack. His lawyer has entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. 

The hate crime surrounding the trial dates back to 2019 when Jussie Smollett claimed that two men attacked him that January. In the initial report to police, Smollet claimed to be attacked in the early hours of the morning near his apartment in Chicago. He claimed two masked assailants poured a chemical substance on him before wrapping a rope around his neck. Smollett would later reveal to police that the assailants wore red “MAGA country” hats.

After the incident went viral, and much of the country clambered to the actors’ defense, things went awry after the Chicago Police announced that they identified the masked assailants and eventually released them without charges. According to the police, the investigation led to evidence that Jussie Smollett himself may have actually perpetrated the entire attack. According to reports from authorities, the alleged assailants, who were identified as the Osundairo brothers, claimed to have been paid by Smollett to help him orchestrate and stage the crime.

Jussie Smollett

As if the events surrounding Jussie Smollett weren’t strange enough, the following charges and surprising dismissal of them proved even more peculiar than the story itself. On March 8, 2019, the Cook County State Attorney’s office announced that the grand jury indictment of the Empire actor would include 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. But just a few weeks later, an emergency hearing in the courtroom resulted in all the criminal charges against Smollett being dropped.

Nearly a year after charges were dropped, Jussie Smollett would top headlines again when it was announced early in 2020 that former US Attorney Dan Webb was being brought in as a special prosecutor to investigate why the charges were dropped against Smollett. Soon after his appointment, Webb announced that a grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Smollett, leading up to this week’s trial.

During yesterday’s opening statements, the defense insisted that Jussie Smollett was indeed the victim of the hate crime claiming that police made a rush to judgment. Disputing the defense’s claim, lead investigator Michael Theis pointed out the combined efforts of the 26 involved officers with countless hours spent investigating over 1,500 hours of surveillance video is not a “rush to judgment”. Testimonials begin today in the courtroom, and will likely run into tomorrow’s court date as well. The trial is expected to last one week, and if found guilty, Smollett could face up to three years behind bars.