CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Testimony is set to begin Tuesday in the trial of former “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.”
Smollett’s attorney says there has been a “tremendous rush to judgment” by the police in the case, and because of it, his client’s career and reputation are damaged.
Smollett is charged with felony disorderly conduct after allegedly arranging a hate crime against himself in January 2019. Smollett claims he was attacked by strangers who used homophobic and racial slurs then put a noose around his neck.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche said during opening statements Monday that two brothers attacked the former “Empire” actor because they didn’t like him and that a $3,500 check the actor paid the men was for training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not as payment for staging a hate crime, as prosecutors allege.
Uche called Smollett “a real victim.”
The Chicago Police Department spent more than 3,000 hours on the case.
“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
Judge James B. Linn said he would like the evidence in the case to be focused on the night of the attack.
Twelve jurors are expected to see surveillance cameras from four different angles. Two key witnesses for the prosecution will be the brothers accusing Smollett of staging the attack.
The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if Smollett is convicted, he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.
It is unclear whether the actor will testify.