‘Empire’ actor has pleaded not guilty to six felony counts in Chicago case
Deliberations began on Wednesday following a one-week trial in which two brothers testified that Mr Smollett – who is Black and gay – recruited him to stage an attack in January 2019, while his defence attorneys have argued that the Empire actor was the victim of a real homophobic assault.
Mr Smollett faces six felony counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports to police, punishable by up to three years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
Jurors concluded their first day of deliberations following roughly two and a half hours on Wednesday and will return to the courthouse on Thursday morning.
The trial’s closing arguments followed the Empire actor’s testimony in his own defence in which he denied any wrongdoing, arguing that “there was no hoax” involved and that Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo – two acquaintances from the programme that prosecutors claim were paid to stage the attack to attract media attention for Mr Smollett – are “liars”.
Mr Smollett’s attorneys argued that the brothers launched a real homophobic attack against Mr Smollett and fabricated a story against him.
The brothers testified that they were paid $3,500 to meet Mr Smollett outside his apartment at 2am on 29 January 2019 and yell slurs and “MAGA” – in reference to former president Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again Slogan” – and throw fake punches, pour bleach on him and place a noose around his neck.
“He was hoping the Osundairo brothers would not cooperate with the police,” said prosecutor Dan Webb, who accused Mr Smollett of lying under oath in his closing arguments in the case. “He got exposed, and now we’re in a trial. That’s what happened.”
Defence attorney Nenye Uche sought to discredit the brothers, arguing that they were out to exploit Mr Smollett for his money and their own fame.
Additional reporting by agencies