At trial, American actor denies organizing racist hoax – Manila bulletin
Chicago, United States – American actor Jussie Smollett on Monday denied that he fabricated a hate crime against himself during his trial in Chicago, a case that sparked a wave of national outrage.
The former “Empire” star was accused in 2019 of orchestrating a racist hoax attack in the Midwestern city to advertise and earn a bigger salary.
“There was no hoax,” the 39-year-old man at the helm said, local media reported. He denied having spoken at any time of a staged attack with his alleged accomplices.
Smollett, who had been a main actor in “Empire,” reported to police in January 2019 that he was attacked in the middle of the night by two masked men as he walked near his home in Chicago .
But police eventually said he had it all organized, based on examining CCTV footage and cell phone data of Smollett and his two alleged attackers.
Smollett, who is gay and African American, has maintained his innocence in the face of a damning public account by authorities of their case against him.
They accused him of having sent himself a threatening letter – accompanied by homophobic and racist insults – and of having hired two acquaintances, the brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, to organize the attack while invoking the slogan “Make America Great Again ”by Donald Trump.
He allegedly paid the brothers $ 3,500 to participate in the ordeal.
The case got even stranger when Cook County prosecutors finally dropped the original 16 charges against him in March 2019.
The city sent a letter to Smollett’s lawyers, however, asking the actor to pay the $ 130,000 overtime related to the police investigation.
He was indicted again in February 2020 by a Cook County grand jury, which deals with crimes in Chicago, with six counts of misconduct related to the alleged false statement.
Smollett’s trial began last Monday with very limited media coverage, and the judge banned most of the proceedings from televising.
Prosecutors argued that Smollett had wanted to advance his career and accused “Empire” production studios of not reacting after receiving a threatening letter.
But Smollett’s lawyers said he was assaulted by two men, one of whom was homophobic, motivated by money.
The actor faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
In long-awaited testimony, Smollett – who was kicked out of “Empire” once the allegations against him surfaced – said the payment of $ 3,500 was for a training and nutrition program developed by the one of the Osundairo brothers.
He and his lawyer then mimed the fight, with Smollett playing the role of the aggressor. He later said his employers at the time pushed him into an interview with a major television station.
The Osundairo brothers testified last week that they were paid to organize the assault.
Abimbola Osundairo said Smollett “explained that the studio does not take hate mail seriously.
“Then he told me he wanted me to hit him,” he said. “I was supposed to hit him but not too hard.”
Abimbola Osundairo said he agreed because he felt indebted to Smollett, who helped him secure a small replacement role in “Empire”. He also denied having had a romantic relationship with Smollett.
Olabinjo Osundairo said Smollett explained the plans for the attack in detail, including the insults to say.
The brothers had fled to Nigeria, where they are from, after the alleged attack. They were arrested on their return to Chicago in mid-February.
The indictment and pleadings are expected later this week, and then the jury will deliberate.
The episode reignited the long-simmering debate in the United States about the fairness of the nation’s criminal justice system, whether the rich get off easily – and whether prosecutors should have that much discretion.
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