As Jazz wrote earlier, the trial of Jussie Smollett finally got underway today. Most of the day was spent in jury selection but after that both sides were able to make their opening arguments in the trial. Those arguments appear to reveal some new information on how each side is approaching the case. For instance, the prosecution claimed the case was an effort by Smollett to bring attention to himself after an earlier piece of hate mail he’d received had been largely ignored.
Dan K. Webb, the special prosecutor, laid out what he saw as Mr. Smollett’s motive in opening arguments of the actor’s trial on criminal charges that he lied to the police when he reported he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
In January 2019, Mr. Webb said, Mr. Smollett received an anonymous “actual hate letter,” which included a homophobic slur and a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree. The letter included the acronym “MAGA” made of cutout newspaper and magazine letters, he said, a reference to former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign slogan. Law enforcement has not been able to determine who sent the letter, Mr. Webb said.
“Therefore, he devised this fake hate crime to take place so that the ‘Empire’ studio would take this more seriously,” he said of Mr. Smollett, “because this fake hate crime would get media attention.”
Later on the story notes that this view of the crime is a bit different than the one police spelled out back in Feb. 2019. At the time, police claimed Smollett was upset about his salary and suggested that the hate letter he received was also a hoax he’d sent himself. But ultimately it seems no one could prove who the letter came from. Perhaps that’s why the prosecutors have dropped that claim. In any case, Webb also revealed that he has video of Smollett showing the Osundairo brothers where he wanted the attack to take place one day before it happened:
“I want you to attack me, but when you hit me, I want you to kind of pull your punches a bit because I don’t want to get seriously hurt,” Smollett told them, according to Webb. Smollett also instructed them to put a rope around his neck to “make it look more like a lynching, like a hate crime,” Webb said.
The three men went on a “dry run” before the attack, part of which was captured on surveillance camera, Webb said. Smollett’s Mercedes can be seen circling the Streeterville intersection, showing the brothers the area where he wants the attack to occur, Webb said.
Back in 2019, Chicago police claimed they had evidence of Smollett showing the brothers where to attack him but I didn’t know until today they had video of the “dry run.”
Perhaps the most surprising change came not from the prosecution but the defense. Smollett has always claimed innocence and said the attack on him was real but early on he was clearly trying to blame it on white fans of President Trump. Now it appears his defense is to claim the Osundairo brothers attacked him because they hated him:
Jussie Smollett “is a real victim” of a “real crime,” his attorney said during the ex-“Empire” actor’s trial Monday, despite prosecutors’ claim that he staged a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche said two brothers attacked Smollett in January 2019 because they didn’t like him, and that a check the actor paid the men was for training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video. Uche also suggested a third attacker was involved.
“Jussie Smollett is a real victim,” Uche told jurors in a Chicago courtroom.
This story has dragged on for so long that I’m not actually sure if this is a completely new approach from the defense or just the first time I’m hearing about it. It sounds to me like they recognize the police have the goods on the movement of the Osundairo brothers that night. They were seen hailing a cab to ride to the scene and then waiting on a bench until Smollett arrived around 2 am. And of course, the brothers themselves have claimed they were there at Smollett’s behest.
Instead of challenging all of that it appears the defense is just going to claim the Osundairo brothers really beat him, poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck while shouting about MAGA country. It should be interesting to see how the defense tries to explain why two black men who’d been friendly with Smollett suddenly turned into racist attackers. This is just one of those stories that, if you made it up, no one would believe it.