Nearly three years after he made headlines over his discredited claim that he was the victim of a hate crime, former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett is headed to trial on six counts of disorderly conduct as jury selection begins this week.
In January 2019, Smollett told Chicago police he was assaulted late at night by two men yelling racist and homophobic slurs, wearing pro-Donald Trump apparel, leaving him with a noose around his neck. But later investigations purportedly showed that Smollett staged the attack with the help of brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who appeared as extras on “Empire” and claim that Smollett paid them $3,500 for their involvement.
The six charges of disorderly conduct were brought by special prosecutor and former U.S. attorney Dan Webb, who did so after previous charges were dismissed by Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx after Smollett agreed to community service. As part of his reopened investigation, Webb determined that Foxx had committed “substantial abuses of discretion” by dismissing the charges but had done nothing illegal. Webb’s charges were brought in February 2020 but are only being brought to trial now due to delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.
If convicted on any of the counts, Smollett could face up to three years in prison. But it is also possible that the actor could serve probation instead of jail time due to his lack of a criminal record. Cameras will be banned from the courtroom due to the high-profile nature of the case.
The incident cost Smollett his role on “Empire” as his character, Jamal Lyon, was written off during the show’s sixth and final season. Smollett’s performance as Jamal, the estranged gay son of music mogul Lucious Lyon, earned him acclaim from critics for his depiction of a proud LGBT character in a hip-hop culture that has a long history of homophobia. He has since produced and directed an independent film “B-Boy Blues,” which opened this past week.