Source: Emily Zanotti
Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett returned to court in Chicago, Illinois, on Wednesday, on renewed charges that he lied to Chicago police about an alleged racist and homophobic attack Smollett said happened outside of his apartment back in January of 2019.
Smollett assailed the process on his way into a Chicago courtroom, maintaining his innocence and calling the morning’s proceedings — where a judge will hear arguments over a potential conflict of interest with Smollett’s attorney — a “dog and pony show.”
“Smollett told Fox News that he is innocent while entering the court, referring to the proceedings he was about to participate in as a ‘dog and pony show,’” the network reported on Wednesday.
Smollett is facing six counts of “felony misconduct” for allegedly lying to Chicago police in two interviews conducted after Smollett reported being the victim of a racist and homophobic early morning attack outside of his Chicago apartment in the city’s tony Streeterville neighborhood.
At the time, Smollett reportedly told police that he was accosted by two men wearing what appeared to be “Make America Great Again” hats. Smollett said the men physically assaulted him, called him racial and homophobic slurs, then threw a “noose” around his neck, doused him with an unknown chemical believed to be bleach, and fled, yelling that Chicago was “MAGA country.”
In a second interview, Smollett identified the men as white.
Further investigation by the Chicago police department turned up evidence that Smollett may have been complicit in the alleged crime, having reportedly coordinated with the Osundairo brothers — twin brothers he met on the set of “Empire” and who worked as personal trainers in the city.
Smollett was eventually charged with 16 counts of lying to police, but those charges were dropped after he inked an unofficial “plea bargain” with the Cook County States Attorney’s office, which involved Smollett doing around a dozen hours of community service for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and forfeiting a $10,000 bond check.
The “plea bargain” left Chicago officials incensed. A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate whether Smollett received preferential treatment from the States Attorney’s office, and city officials — including then-mayor Rahm Emanuel — sent a bill to Smollett demanding he repay the city for police’s overtime spent investigating the case, a sum of about $150,000.
The special prosecutor eventually renewed six of the sixteen charges against Smollett and the case is finally proceeding to trial, following a host of delays, COVID-19 delays included.
On Wednesday, Smollett was in court for a hearing about one of his “would-be attorneys, Nenye Uche,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Uche “has a conflict of interest that could disqualify him from representing the actor in his hot-button criminal case.”
The Tribune noted that after Uche “signed on to represent Smollett earlier this year, the Osundairo brothers alleged that he spoke with them about representing them early in the process, and had substantive conversations about the case. If true, that could mean Uche has a conflict of interest barring him from representing Smollett.”
The Osundairo brothers are expected to be a significant part of the prosecution’s case against Smollett, as they told police officers that they coordinated with Smollett to plan the alleged attack.