Actor Jussie Smollett took the witness stand Monday at his own trial in Chicago. Prosecutors accuse the former Empire star of staging a racist, anti-gay attack on himself in 2019.
Smollett faces six counts of felony disorderly conduct. All charges were initially dismissed abruptly in March of 2019, two months after the alleged incident. A special prosecutor then reinstated that charges after looking into the case in February of 2020.
The six counts of felony disorderly conduct are listed as class 4 felonies, which are among the least serious felonies in Illinois. Convictions can still carry potential prison time of up to three years.
Many attorneys believe that if convicted, it’d be highly unlikely Smollett would spend any time behind bars. It’s more likely that a judge would sentence him to probation and community service.
Andrew Weisberg, a former prosecutor, said he would “be shocked if Smollett spent one day in jail” if convicted.
Two different narratives play out at bizarre trial
Last week, two brothers took the witness stand and gave damaging testimony that Smollett had recruited them to stage a racist and homophobic attack against him in downtown Chicago.
The two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, were stand-ins on the hit-show ‘Empire’. The men claim that they carried out the hoax because they felt indebted to Smollett for helping with their acting career.
They told jurors that Smollett planned a “dry run” and gave them $100 to buy supplies, including rope for a noose and bleach for the attack. They also said Smollett paid them $3,500 to carry out the attack.
Smollett’s defense attorneys suggest that the Osundairos attacked Smollett and accused him of staging a hoax, because they saw an opportunity to make money. The defense alleges that after Chicago police questioned the brothers about the attack, they asked Smollett for $1 million each. In exchange for the money, defense attorneys say they agreed not to testify against Smollett at trial.
Smollett claimed he paid the brothers for meal plans and training to get more toned for a music video. He said “there was no hoax” in regards to the 2019 incident.
According to Vice News, Smollett also testified that he’d previously had an intimate encounter with one of the two men.
With Smollett testimony is the first time the jury has heard his side of the story. Before today, only the Osundario brothers had taken the stand.
The weight of a defendant’s testimony can sometimes sway a jury. At the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen took the stand and sobbed in exasperating fashion as he detailed the night he killed two men. Rittenhouse was later acquitted of all charges after testifying he feared for his life.