Chicago, IL – The trial of former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, who is accused of faking a hate attack on himself in 2019, began on Monday in Chicago.
Cook County Judge James Linn denied a request for extended media coverage ahead of the trial, meaning that Smollett’s trial will not be broadcasted live from the beginning like so many other high-profile cases lately, because there wasn’t enough room in the courtroom, FOX News reported.
Linn said he would keep the courtroom doors open to allow some public insight into the jury selection that began on Nov. 29 as long as nothing disruptive could be heard inside the room.
It was expected that the judge might change it up after jury selection when there was more room for media and cameras in the courtroom, FOX News reported.
Smollett is facing six felony disorderly conduct charges for orchestrating the attack he claimed had been perpetrated by two white supporters of President Donald Trump as the actor was walking home from a Subway restaurant on Jan. 29, 2019.
He claimed the men called him homophobic and anti-black slurs and told him “This is MAGA country” as they beat him up and put a noose around his neck. He also said they threw a chemical on him.
Police believed that Smollett was a victim until the men who helped him perpetrate the hoax – brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo – returned from Nigeria and were taken into police custody.
The Osundairos told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with another $500 after they returned from a planned trip to Nigeria.
Police said they had the check that Smollett used to pay the brothers.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced a grand jury had indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct in connection with the hoax attack on March 8, 2019.
But then on March 26, 2019, the State’s Attorney’s Office unceremoniously announced all charges against the “Empire” actor had been dropped.
But despite that legal wrangling over dollars and cents, Smollett was not yet in the clear on the criminal charges he initially faced.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin in June of 2019 appointed a special counsel to investigate what actually happened after information about Smollett hiding evidence and the involvement of Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen, in the case became public.
Toomin gave the special prosecutor a broad mandate to investigate what had happened with the case from beginning to end and what all parties involved had done.
The special prosecutor indicted Smollett on new charges on Feb. 11, 2020, WFLD reported.
The indictment happened just one month after a Cook County judge ordered Google to turn over copious amount of information from the accounts Smollett and his manager and five months after the special prosecutor began his investigation.
In March of 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court also denied Smollett’s attorneys’ request to stop criminal proceedings against the actor, WMAQ reported.
Smollett’s attorneys asked the state’s highest court to issue a stay in the criminal case, dismiss the indictment against the actor, and vacate the prior court order that established attorney Dan Webb as the special prosecutor in the case using the same double-jeopardy argument, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Smollett’s attorneys have repeatedly asserted that Smollett is being subjected to double-jeopardy since he already forfeited a $10,000 fine and did community service in exchange for a prior dismissal of the charges, NBC News reported.
“A deal is a deal. That’s ancient principle,” Smollett’s attorney, Nenye Uche, said in court on Oct. 15.
The Illinois Supreme Court justices declined all three of Smollett’s attorneys’ requests without offering any explanations, FOX News reported.
The actor’s attorneys had already asked Linn to delay Smollett’s arraignment for the same reasons.
The judge denied the request for the second time on Oct. 15 dashing any last hopes that Smollett’s case wouldn’t proceed to trial, NBC News reported.
The state’s highest court also declined to dismiss the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the handling of Smollett’s case by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
The disorderly conduct charges that Smollett is facing carry a sentence of up to four years if the actor is convicted, FOX News reported.
Legal experts have said they expect the judge would sentence the actor to probation or community service rather than prison time.