Jussie Smollett arrived at court for the first day of his hate crime trial in Chicago on Monday, Nov. 29 with family by his side. The Empire actor, 39, is accused of filing false reports about being the victim of racist and homophobic attack in 2019. A grand jury indicted the the actor, who is openly-gay, of six counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports to Chicago police in February 2020, but Jussie has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty.
The actor has been accused of orchestrating his attack by hiring brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo to take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” per authorities. The brothers confessed to the plot, claiming to authorities that Jussie first “attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language” before the attacks.
At the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Monday, Jussie arrived with his family, including mother Janet and Emmy-nominated actress sister Jurnee, for day one of the trial. Jury selection began on Monday with six potential jurors being asked about whether they had ever watched the show Empire or read stories about the attack on TMZ.
Jussie initially told police that he was attacked on January 29, 2019 by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him. He alleged that they put a noose around his neck and poured an unidentified substance on him. In a statement issued to Essence in February of that year, he addressed misinformation on the internet and said, “I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level.”
“Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served,” his statement continued. Following the incident, celebrities, politicians, and public figures sent words of support to Jussie, with then-President Donald Trump condemning the attack as “horrible.”
In an interview with BET correspondent Marc Lamont Hill in September, Jussie addressed the charges for the first time and said he believed authorities and media were “trying to sell” an agenda by painting him as guilty. “When I step back, I can see the way they served the narrative to the people: That it was intentionally created to make people doubt from the very, very beginning,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m not really living for the people that don’t believe.”