Lawyers In Smollett Trial Choose Jury, Hold Opening Arguments

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Attorneys litigating the disorderly conduct trial of former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett chose a jury and began opening arguments on Monday afternoon, in what is expected to be a week-long trial.

Prosecutors and the defense chose twelve main jurors and three alternates, finishing the selection process just after 4 p.m. local time. Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Linn has barred cameras from the courtroom for the duration of the trial, and allowed only two pool reporters in the courtroom during jury selection, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

Smollett is charged with six felony counts of disorderly conduct stemming from a February 2019 incident in which Smollett claimed to be the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime. The actor said that two men yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, poured bleach on him, and hung a noose around his neck as he walked the streets of Chicago at 2 a.m. (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Top Democrats Called Jussie Smollett Hate Crime Hoax A ‘Lynching’)

Prosecutors allege that he filed a false police report claiming that he was a victim of a hate crime, and that he orchestrated the “attack.” He was indicted in February 2020, and pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, Smollett faces up to three years in prison but is likely to be sentenced to community service or probation as a first-time offender.

Two men who received $3,500 from Smollett, Abel and Ola Osundairo, are expected to testify for the prosecution about whether or not they were paid to orchestrate the hoax assault, as the prosecution alleges.

Smollett was initially charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct, but Cook County Prosecutor Kim Foxx dropped the charges. A judge later appointed a special prosecutor to handle the case, finding that Foxx inappropriately assigned a deputy in her office to prosecute Smollett.