Jury selection began Monday in Chicago in the lengthy and convoluted criminal case against former Empire actor Jussie Smollett. Smollett is charged with lying to Chicago cops about being the alleged victim of racism in January 2019.
Smollett said at the time that two individuals screamed racist and homophobic comments at him, kicked him, threw chemicals on him, tied him up, and warned him, “This is MAGA land.” Several politicians and celebs, including then-Sen. Kamala Harris and Empire co-creator Lee Daniel backed his description of the claimed encounter.
However, investigators thought Smollett was lying within days, but within weeks, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson revealed during a press conference that the actor “took advantage of the hurt and anger of bigotry to promote his profession.”
Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, two brothers who happened to know Smollett, told authorities that the actor had hired them to fake an attack. Kim Foxx, the Cook County state attorney, filed criminal charges against Smollett, but the case was mysteriously dismissed within a month.
Following public outcry over the decision, a Cook County court appointed Dan Webb as a special investigator to look into both the alleged offense and the dismissed Cook County case. Webb revealed a second grand-jury charge against Smollett in February 2020, which included six counts of criminal trespass, for which the actor is currently on trial.
Webb presented his conclusions on Foxx’s handling of the initial case in August 2020, saying there were “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” but no basis for criminal offenses against Foxx’s agency. WBEZ, a member station, has constructed a chronology that lays out the case’s many, often perplexing twists and turns.