Trial set to start on charges Smollett faked racist attackSunday, November 28, 2021
CHICAGO, United States (AP) — Three years after American actor, Jussie Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct after law enforcement and prosecutors said he lied to police about what happened in the early morning hours of January 29, 2019, in downtown Chicago, Smollett is about to stand trial.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday. Disorderly conduct, a class 4 felony, carries a sentence of up to three years in prison but experts have said it is more likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Smollett told police he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at 2 am when two men he said recognised him from the TV show “Empire” began hurling racial and homophobic slurs at him. He said the men struck him, looped a makeshift noose around his neck and shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to then-President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Reaction to his reported assault underscored the increasingly polarised political landscape; Democratic politicians and others called it a shocking example of Trump-era bigotry and hate, while Republicans accused liberals of rushing to paint the president's supporters as racists.
Just weeks later came the stunning announcement that Smollett was charged with staging the attack to further his career and secure a higher salary. And, police said, he hired two brothers from Nigeria, to pretend to attack him for US$3,500.
This made the spotlight on Smollett shine even brighter, but this time he was vilified as someone willing to use one of the most potent symbol of racism in the US to further his career.
“The most vile and despicable part of it, if it's true, is the noose,” Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr, who is Black, said during Smollett's first court appearance. “That symbol conjures up such evil in this country's history.”
Trial was delayed in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought cases around the country to a halt for months. But also, charges were filed, dropped and filed again by a special prosecutor who was brought in to take over the case.
Smollett — whose career has since faded — will this week return to the glare of the media spotlight, but this time as he passes the forest of news cameras as he makes his way to and from court.
The producers of “Empire,” on which he starred for four years, renewed his contract for the sixth and final season in 2019, but he never appeared in an episode. Nor has he released any music or given significant musical performances.
He has, however, directed an independent film, funded by his own production company, that is premiering at the American Black Film Festival this month. The movie, “B-Boy Blues” is an adaptation of a 1994 novel, the first in a series, about the lives of gay Black men in New York.