CHICAGO (AP) – Two brothers are at the center of a case that prosecutors will bring to jury when Jussie Smollett’s trial kicks off this week.
The former Empire actor claims to have been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. in downtown Chicago on a cold night in January 2019. The siblings who worked with him on the TV show say he paid them $ 3,500 to impersonate the attackers.…
Smollett is accused of lying to police about the alleged assault and petty hooliganism. This is a class 4 crime that carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, but experts believe it is more likely that if Smollett is found guilty, he will be put on probation and possibly ordered to do community service.
Whether the black and overtly gay Smollett testifies remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundaro, will appear as witnesses, where they are expected to repeat what they told the police and prosecutors – that they carried out the attack at Smollett’s direction.
The jury can also see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras. police carried out checks to track the brothers’ movements before and after the alleged attack, as well as a video of the brothers buying a red hat, ski masks and gloves at a cosmetics store several hours earlier.
Smollett’s lawyers did not explain how they would oppose the evidence, and chief attorney Nenier Uche declined to comment. But there are clues as to what they might do during the trial, which begins with jury selection on Monday in a Chicago courtroom. It is expected to last a week.
Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from a woman living in the area who says she saw a white man with “reddish-brown hair” who seemed to be waiting for someone that night.
She told the detective that when the man turned away from her, she “saw something like a rope hanging from under his jacket.”
Her comments could corroborate Smollett’s claim that his attackers threw a makeshift noose around his neck. In addition, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s claims – which are widely ridiculed because the brothers who come from Nigeria are black – that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of the masked attackers. …
One of the defense attorneys, Tina Glandian, suggested during a March 2019 appearance on NBC’s Today show that one of the brothers may have used white makeup around his eyes to make Smollett believe he was white. To allay the jury’s skepticism, Glandian can ask the brothers about a video she talked about on the program, where she says one of them with a pale face recites the monologue of the Joker character from the movie.
Given that there is so much evidence, including the brothers’ own claims, that they were involved in the attack, it is unlikely that Smollett’s lawyers will try to prove they were not. This could possibly lead the defense to argue that Smollett was the victim of a very real attack from the brothers, possibly with the help of others who are now only involved in the actor, so the prosecutor’s office will not press charges against them.
A check for $ 3,500 can be key. While the brothers say it was their fee for carrying out the fake attack, Smollett offered a different and much more innocent explanation: he wrote a check to pay one of them to work as his personal trainer.
“I guess the defense will focus on this,” said Joe Lopez, a prominent attorney not associated with the case. “If they sent text messages regarding training, verifying that he (Smollett) wrote them for training, photographs, the defense would use it all.”
What they will almost certainly do is undermine the brothers’ credibility – an effort that will certainly include reminding the jury that the brothers are not facing the same criminal charges as Smollett, despite admitting to being involved in the staged assault.
“Whatever Smollett is responsible for, they are responsible,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at the Chicago Kent College of Law and is not involved in the case. “Have they participated and are leaving? What the heck is that?”
Erickson said he expects prosecutors to grapple with the matter before Smollett’s attorneys do, as they don’t want to appear to be trying to hide something.
Finally, Smollett’s career could take center stage. On the one hand, prosecutors can do the same thing that then Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson did when he announced Smollett’s arrest in 2019: what Smollett believed was an attack will bring him more fame and promotion on a popular TV show.
But Lopez said defense lawyers could ask the jury the same question he asked himself.
“How does this help him in anything?” he asked. “He’s already a star.”
Check out full AP coverage the Jussie Smollett case.