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Trial Begins For Jussie Smollett Who Is Accused Of Staging A Hate Crime Against Himself

Photo: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
Jussie Smollett

The trial for actor Jussie Smollett, who is being accused of staging a hate crime against himself, is set to begin on Monday with jury selection.

In January 2019, Smollett, who is Black and gay, reported to Chicago police that he had been attacked by two men wearing ski masks while walking home from a Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m.

Smollett claimed the two men screamed racist and homophobic slurs at him and referenced former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again.’

The actor also alleged that the two suspects had put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him.

Smollett, who was starring on the TV show ‘Empire,’ garnered an influx of support from various celebrities, including Vice President Kamala Harris, and fellow ‘Empire’ creator, Lee Daniel.

However, within days after the attack was reported, police and prosecutors discovered that Smollett had lied about the hate crime, and believed that he had staged the entire attack on himself.

In a press conference, then-Chicago Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

What charges is Jussie Smollett facing over his assault allegations?

Smollett, 39, is being charged with six counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports to police.

RELATED: Is Jussie Smollett Faking His Attack? New Details About The Claim That He Set The 'Hate Crime' Up

Officials discovered evidence, including text messages from acquaintances of Smollett that point to the actor paying them to assault him so that it would attract publicity and boost his career.

The two acquaintances, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who are brothers, told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack because he was unhappy with the amount of money he had been making on ‘Empire.’

"Why would anyone — especially an African-American man — use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Johnson said. "How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?"

Jussie Smollett is pleading not guilty. 

Smollett has denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

In 2019, his lawyer argued that the payments Smollett had made to the brothers were for personal training. 

RELATED: Who Are Jussie Smollett's Attackers? New Details About The Men Arrested For The Attack On The 'Empire' Star

The case had originally been dismissed by The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in March 2019, after Smollett had completed community service and agreed to forfeit the $10,000 bond he had paid.

Public criticism immediately erupted after the dismissal, and a Cook County judge ordered prosecutor, Dan Webb, to investigate the alleged crime and the dropped case. 

It was in Feb. 2020 that Webb discovered a new grand-jury indictment against Smollett, including the six charges of disorderly conduct that he is standing trial for now.

Webb had released his findings in Aug. 2020 from the initial handling of the case in which he said there were “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures,” at the hands of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

Foxx’s office released a statement that same month rejecting “the characterizations of its exercises of prosecutorial discretion and private or public statements as 'abuses of discretion' or false statements to the public.”

In the upcoming trial, the Osundairo brothers are said to be the key witnesses of the prosecution, with Smollett’s lawyers planning to argue that the brothers had framed him.

RELATED: Who Is Jussie Smollett's Sister, Jurnee Smollett? Actress Finally Speaks Out About Her Brother

Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.