The trial of former Empire star Jussie Smollett is entering its final stages. Jurors were expected to hear final arguments on Wednesday (Dec. 8) before deliberating on whether to convict the actor accused of making a false report to the Chicago police about being a victim of a racist homophobic attack in 2019.
On Tuesday, Smollett’s attorneys rested their case after the 39-year-old actor sparred with the prosecutor from the witness stand, in what the Chicago Sun-Times described as “a tense two hours” of questioning.
In February 2020, a Cook County, Ill. grand jury indicted Smollett on six counts of making false reports to police. The actor told the investigators he was attacked while walking home at around 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019. He claims two masked men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb accused Smollett of hiring brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo to stage the alleged attack. In their testimony, the Osundairos corroborated the prosecution’s theory. They said Smollett crafted the scheme for publicity and paid them $3,500 to stage the assault.
Smollett denied that accusation from the witness stand. On Tuesday, he claimed that the brothers sought a payoff from him to change their testimony.
The defense team’s witnesses included Smollett’s publicist and Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney. They disputed the prosecution’s theory that Smollett’s motives were to get publicity and to avenge the studio’s apparent inaction to a threatening letter Smollett received.
Webb built his case against Smollett on testimony from several Chicago Police Department officers, including Detective Michael Theis who explained how investigators used surveillance footage to track down the Osundairos. The brothers told the police that Smollett recruited them to stage the attack. The police also used GPS data and cell phone records to confirm their story, the detective testified.
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According to the Associated Press, if convicted Smollett faces up to three years in prison, which is unlikely. The judge would probably take into consideration that he doesn’t have a criminal record and no one was seriously injured and sentence him to probation and community service.