Crime In and outside court, Smollett fights for reputation, career
Trial set to start on charges Smollett faked racist attack
CHICAGO (AP) — A popular actor steps out onto the street and is brutally reminded that, despite his fame and wealth, places still exist where the color of his skin and sexual orientation put him in danger. That was the story that ricocheted around the world after Jussie Smollett, a Black and openly gay actor, reported to Chicago police that he was the victim of a hate crime. Nearly three years later, Smollett is about to stand trial on charges that he staged the whole thing. He 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 Jan. 29, 2019, in downtown Chicago.
CHICAGO (AP) — Outside the courtroom where former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is fighting charges accusing him of lying to Chicago police about being the victim of an anti-gay, racist attack, his publicist has introduced a roster of supporters to the assembled TV cameras.
Renowned opera singer Lauren Michelle, who also appeared on “Empire," spoke of how one of her best friends from high school has maintained his humanity despite the attacks on his character. Smollett's pastor from New York, Damon Marks, said the person prosecutors are portraying in court is not “the Jussie I know.”
Key moments since Jussie Smollett reported Chicago attack
CHICAGO (AP) — Jussie Smollett goes to trial Monday on charges that he lied to Chicago police when the former “Empire” actor and R&B singer reported being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack nearly three years ago. Some key moments in the story: Jan. 22, 2019 — Smollett receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the studio in Chicago where "Empire" is filmed. Police later say they believe Smollett sent the letter himself. Jan. 29, 2019— Jussie Smollett tells police he was attacked by two men in downtown Chicago at 2 a.m.
And activist Bella BAHHS, who met Smollett while protesting the police, said she doesn't trust Chicago police not to make things up — including the allegations against her friend.
The daily turns at the microphone are part of a broader strategy underway sincestarted at the Chicago courthouse roughly one week ago: trying to ensure the 39-year-old emerges from this scandal and legal troubles with his reputation and career intact, or at least having suffered as little damage as possible, whatever the outcome.
— six counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police about the — are low-level felonies and carry a possible sentence of three years in prison. Legal experts say if convicted he would most likely get probation and be ordered to perform community service.
Jussie Smollett's Trial Begins as Actor Faces Charges He Faked Racist Attack
Former "Empire" star Jussie Smollett has been accused of orchestrating an alleged racist and homophobic attack on himself in Chicago almost three years ago.The former Empire star, 39, alleged that he was attacked on the streets of downtown Chicago on January 29, 2019. However, brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo have alleged that he paid them $3,500 to stage the attack.
The impact on his livelihood could be far more serious. Taking the witness stand Monday, Smollett testified that “.” His media relations team, which is led by a former Chicago TV reporter, released a statement to The Associated Press from family friend Fania Davis, who said Smollett already has lost income and “many professional opportunities" due to a "character assassination and disinformation campaign” by Chicago police.
“This is an injury to his personal reputation, to his career and his soul,” said Davis, whose sister is civil rights activist Angela Davis. “He could easily have copped a plea, with a slap on the wrist and then moved on with his life. But he chose instead to stand up to injustice."
Publicist Danny Deraney, who works with entertainment figures and often takes on crisis PR clients but is not working with Smollett, said the performer will be hurt in any attempt to return to his career because he was far from a household name before, and so many learned his identity because of the alleged attack and charges against him.
Jussie Smollett's trial starts today. This is how we got here
Jury selection starts Monday in the trial of former "Empire" star Jussie Smollett, who is accused of making false reports to authorities that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in 2019. © Rob Kim/Getty Images NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 19: Director Jussie Smollett attends the New York Screening of "B-Boy Blues" at AMC Magic Johnson Harlem on November 19, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images) Smollett, 39, was indicted on six counts last year by a Cook County, Illinois, grand jury, but the actor has insisted on his innocence, repeatedly denying he orchestrated the attack.
“Nobody really knew who he was, unless you watched the show," Deraney said. “For the time being, I don’t see any other way of people seeing him and not knowing him for this.”
The atypical accusations, the absurdity of his alleged crime and his tendency to be fodder for comedians may hurt him more than accusations, even of serious crimes.
“Being in the public eye as far as being on television or film or whatever it is, that’s going to be hard for him. I don’t think people are going to take him seriously,” Deraney said. “People who become the butt of jokes, of doing things as ridiculous and absurd as what allegedly happened, have a harder time working.”
Some of the Smollett strategy is playing out in the court proceedings, where Smollett testified he was a victim of a hate crime after two brothers said the actor recruited them to carry out the attack on him so he could publicize it via social media. Police testified they were able to corroborate the siblings’ accounts.
Smollett's defense attorneys have argued that the brothers committed the attack because they are homophobic and don't like Smollett, who is gay. They say the men told police it was all staged by the actor so they could shake him down for $1 million each to not testify.
Prosecutors to begin case against Jussie Smollett in Chicago
CHICAGO (AP) — Testimony is set to begin Tuesday in the trial of ex-“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who prosecutors say staged a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago but whose defense attorney says is “a real victim” of a “real crime.” Special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors during opening statements late Monday that Smollett recruited two brothers — who worked with him on the TV show — to help him carry out a fake attack in January 2019 because he believed the television studio didn’t take hate mail he had received seriously.
Smollett's legal team also has said Judge James Linn is biased against them, at one point asking for a mistrial — which Linn denied — after he cut off her questioning of one of the brothers about homophobic language he used, calling it “collateral” material. A defense attorney also claimed Linn “lunged” at her — all of which they could use as grounds for appeal if Smollett is convicted, and to argue in the court of public opinion that the legal system unfairly wronged him.
And separate from the trial, Smollett's team and his family — which includes five siblings, most of whom are also actors and a mother who was active in fighting for civil rights — have been promoting both the man and his talents.
On the first day of his trial, Smollett learned that a film he wrote, directed and produced, “B-Boy Blues,” won the "fan favorite narrative feature” award in the American Black Film Festival Awards. His publicist blasted the news out to journalists, along with a link to a 2016 New York Times article about the Smollett family's acting chops and activism — supporting causes like HIV/AIDS and the Black Lives Matter movement — and a letter of support from activist and artists, including Davis and Danny Glover.
On Monday, his team sent out a photograph of Smollett and his family meeting with civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson over the weekend.
Jussie Smollett Trial: How Opening Arguments Could Influence Guilty Verdict
Former "Empire" star Jussie Smollett is currently on trial, facing accusations that he staged his own racist attack on the streets of Chicago. Former Empire star Smollett, 39, had alleged that he was attacked on the streets of Chicago on January 29, 2019, by two supporters of former President Donald Trump, who he alleged tied a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. Your browser does not support this video His claims were challenged by brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who alleged that the actor and singer had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack.
Early in his acting career, Smollett starred along with his brothers and sisters in the TV series “On Our Own,” about a group of orphaned siblings, that aired for one season. He had other roles in TV and movies, including playing Langston Hughes in “Marshall,” about Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.
His biggest role was on “Empire,” a musical drama about an entertainment company that was filmed in Chicago. Smollett starred on the program for four years starting in 2015. Producers renewed his contract for the sixth and final season in 2019, but he never appeared in an episode.
Deraney said it can be difficult to predict who will be accepted back into public life. A supportive family in the entertainment industry like Smollett has – sister Jurnee’s acting career is thriving – might not be a huge career advantage initially, but if they get into prominent positions and can hire him for roles, it might.
“If you’ve got people behind you that are financially secure, This whole industry is built on nepotism, it’s all about who you know. If his family stands behind him, that’s going to be fine for him,” Deraney said.
Fania Davis said in her statement to AP that Smollett comes from “a family of justice warriors” like her family and her sister's family.
“We are very proud that even in this difficult period, Jussie has persevered and created art at the highest level and we are confident he will continue to do so,” she said.
Check out the AP’sof the Jussie Smollett case.
Associated Press entertainment writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this story from Los Angeles.
Jussie Smollett trial: Actor was found guilty of falsely reporting a hate crime. Here's what comes next .
Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was found guilty Thursday on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for making false reports to police that he was the victim of a hate crime in January 2019. © Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Actor Jussie Smollett (center) returns to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Thursday in Chicago, and was found guilty on five of six counts. His defense team said it will appeal the verdict. Jurors deliberated over the course of two days following a trial that featured Smollett and his accomplices providing strikingly different testimony over what occurred.