Jury selection begins in Jussie Smollett hate crime hoax case, actor could get up to 3 years in jail

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(Video Credit: Fox News)

Jury selection in the Jussie Smollett case will occur on Monday, setting the stage for a four or five-day trial for the actor who alleged three years ago that he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in Chicago but was later accused of a hoax by police.

The former “Empire” star told police that he was walking near his apartment in downtown Chicago on a very cold January night in 2019 when he was accosted by two men. Smollett is black and gay, which factored into his allegations.

He claimed the two men approached him and then attacked him while screaming racist and homophobic slurs at him. He also asserted that the men yelled, “This is MAGA country!” and then poured a bleach-like liquid on him while putting a noose around his neck.

The claim by Smollett did not pass the smell test with the Chicago police. They investigated the matter and came to the conclusion that Smollett had staged the whole thing to boost his acting career. The police contended that he hired two men, Abel and Ola Osundairo, who are two black brothers that had worked as extras on his hit show. He allegedly paid them $3,500 to stage the attack.

(Video Credit: LiveNOW from Fox)

The brothers are slated to be key witnesses in the trial against Smollett.

The actor has relocated from Chicago to California after his career tanked following the stunt. His character in “Empire” was written out of the series.

He faces six counts of disorderly conduct and filing a false report. Smollett, 39, was indicted last year by a Cook County, Illinois, grand jury. He still insists he is innocent. Smollett’s attorney pleaded not guilty on his behalf. He could get three years for making false statements to the police, but will most likely get probation.

Originally, he was facing 16 felony disorderly conduct counts. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office inexplicably dropped the charges a month after they were filed. She reportedly reached an agreement with the actor to perform community service and turn over his bond to the city of Chicago. He was not required to admit any wrongdoing.

Foxx recused herself from the case the day before he was arrested.

Following Smollett’s arrest, then-Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson publicly called the attack a hoax that Smollett conjured up himself. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the actor for besmirching Chicago’s reputation with his hoax.

Prosecutors are alleging that Smollett staged the attack after the television studio received a purportedly racist letter with a white powdered substance in it that was mailed to him and inadequately addressed the incident.

The powder turned out to be a crushed over-the-counter pain reliever and Smollett ostensibly mailed the letter to himself because he didn’t think the studio was paying him enough according to the police.

Smollett’s defense team has also subpoenaed Foxx, Emanuel, and Johnson. None of them will testify thanks to a ruling by Judge James Linn according to Fox11 Los Angeles. The judge has stressed to potential jurors that a defendant’s presumption of innocence is the “bedrock of our society.”

No cameras will be allowed in the courtroom during the trial and it will not be streamed live. Attendance inside the courtroom will be very limited due to the pandemic as well.

Numerous prominent Democrats came to the defense of Smollett after he allegedly staged the attack. They may regret doing so after the short-lived trial.

“The racist and homophobic attack on Jussie Smollett is a horrific instance of the surging hostility toward minorities around the country. We must come together to eradicate all forms of bigotry and violence,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted at the time.

“The racist, homophobic attack on @JussieSmollett is an affront to our humanity,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a now-deleted tweet. “No one should be attacked for who they are or whom they love.”

“Like most of you, I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed. When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward,” Kamala Harris tweeted in February 2019. “At the same time, we must speak the truth: hate crimes are on the rise in America.”

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