A disorderly conduct trial that is expected to start Monday in Chicago will be drawing worldwide attention. That’s because the accused is former Empire actor Jussie Smollett, whose now-discredited claim of a racially motivated attack in January 2019 shocked the world.
The twists in the Smollett saga are legendary. After claiming he ventured forth on a freezing cold night at 2 AM to get a sandwich, Smollett said he was attacked by two men wearing “MAGA” gear. After a struggle, they left him battered and with a noose around his neck.
Subsequent investigations purportedly showed Smollett staged the attack with the help of two brothers he met at a local gym. He was severed from his Empire role and has since occupied himself with producing and directing an independent film, B-Boy Blues, which opened last week.
Smollett was eventually indicted on 16 counts of providing false information, but had them all dismissed by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, with a $10,000 bail forfeited as the only real penalty. After heavy criticism of Foxx’s action, a special prosecutor brought new disorderly conduct charges against Smollett.
New prosecutor Dan Webb and his team brought the new indictment against Smollett in February 2020, but the trial has been delayed by the pandemic.
The stakes are low in this new trial. If convicted on any of the six disorderly conduct counts in the indictment, Smollett could face from one to three years in prison. But it’s equally likely that he could receive probation, since he has no criminal past. ,
Jurors will be asked to determine if Smollett staged the phony hate crime on himself. The trial is expected to last at least a week. Cameras have been banned from the courtroom.
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