CHICAGO – Jurors in Jussie Smollett’s trial are set to resume their deliberations Thursday on accusations that the former “Empire” actor orchestrated a mock attack on himself, then lied to Chicago police about him. have been the victim of an anti-gay and racist hate crime.
The jury deliberated for about two hours on Wednesday after a trial of about a week. They asked Judge James Linn for a copy of a timeline posted by prosecutors at the trial that showed relevant dates, including that of the alleged attack and what two brothers testified to be a “swarm” for the assault. of January 29, 2019.
In closing arguments earlier Wednesday, a prosecutor told jurors there was “overwhelming evidence” that Smollett organized the attack and then lied to police about it for publicity. His defense attorney said prosecutors’ case was based on lies.
Two brothers said last week that Smollett recruited them to simulate the attack near his home in downtown Chicago. They said Smollett, who is black and gay, told them to put a noose around his neck, shout racist and homophobic slurs and brutalize him on a surveillance camera.
Smollett testified that he was the victim of an actual hate crime, telling jurors “there was no hoax.” His lawyers argued that the brothers attacked the actor because they are homophobic and they made up the story of the organized attack, but said they would not testify against Smollett if he paid them $ 1 million each.
In his closing argument on Wednesday, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury that Smollett pressured the Chicago police to spend enormous resources investigating what they believed to be a bogus crime.
âBesides being against the law, it is simply wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a true hate crime and then make sure it is words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country, âsaid Webb.
He also accused Smollett of lying to jurors, saying surveillance footage from before the alleged attack and that night contradicts key moments in Smollett’s testimony.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche called the brothers “sophisticated liars” who may have been motivated to attack Smollett because of homophobia or because they wanted to be hired to work as his security.
âThese guys want to make money,â he said.
Webb asked why Smollett had not turned over his cell phone to the police or given them a DNA sample or access to his medical records to aid the investigation. Smollett said he did not trust the Chicago Police Department and was concerned about his privacy.
âIf he was a true victim of crime, he wouldn’t be hiding evidence,â Webb said.
Uche called it “nonsense” that the Chicago police force asked Smollett for his DNA while he was still considered a victim of a crime. He noted that Smollett then provided DNA to the FBI for a separate investigation into the hate mail he received at the “Empire” studio shortly before the alleged attack.
âHe wasn’t hiding anything,â Uche said.
The disorderly conduct charge is a Class 4 felony carrying a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is found guilty he would likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform general interest work.
Check out the full PA coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.