Brothers take center stage in Jussie Smollett’s trial

Brothers take center stage in Jussie Smollett’s trial

Chicago (AFP) – Two brothers stand at the center of the case that the prosecution will bring to the jury when the trial of Josie Smollett begins this week.

The former “Empire” actor claims he was the victim of a racist and anti-gay assault in downtown Chicago on a frigid night in January 2019. The siblings, who worked with him on the TV show, say he paid them $3,500 to pose as the attackers. .

Smollett is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with a felony disorderly conduct charge. A fourth-degree crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, but experts said it is likely that if Smollett is found guilty, he will be placed on probation and possibly required to perform community service.

Whether Black and Smollett is openly gay remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabingo Osondaero, will take the witness stand where they are expected to repeat what they told police officers and prosecutors – that they carried out the attack at Smollett’s request.

Jurors may also view surveillance video from more than forty cameras that police reviewed to track the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as video clip showing the brothers purchasing red hat, ski masks and gloves from a beauty supply store. hours ago.

Smollett’s attorneys did not explain how they would counter this evidence and lead attorney Nene Uchi declined to comment. But there is evidence about how they did it during the trial, which begins with the selection of the jury on Monday in a Chicago courtroom. It is expected to last a week.

Nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reporting are buried, a statement from a woman who lives in the area who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night.

She told an investigator that when the man pulled away from her, she “could see what appeared to be a rope hanging from under his jacket.”

Her comments could support Smollett’s claim that his attackers wrapped a noose around his neck. Moreover, if she testified that the man was white, it would corroborate Smollett’s remarks – widely ridiculed because the two brothers are from Nigeria, are black – that he saw pale or white skin around the eye of one of his masked attackers.

One of the defense attorneys, Tina Glandian, suggested during a March 2019 appearance on NBC’s “Today” that one of the brothers could have used white makeup around his eyes to make Smollett think he was white. To address doubts about the jury, Glandian could ask the brothers about a video she talked about on the show that she said showed one of them in a white face reciting a Joker monologue from a movie.

Since there is plenty of evidence, including the two brothers’ statements, that they took part in the attack, it’s not likely that Smollett’s lawyers would attempt to prove that they did not. That would probably lead the defense to say that Smollett was the victim of a very real attack at the hands of the brothers, possibly with the help of others, who now implicate the actor just so prosecutors don’t accuse them either.

A check for $3,500 can be basic. While the brothers say this was their pay for carrying out the fake attack, Smollett offers a different, more innocent explanation: that he wrote the check to pay someone to work as his personal trainer.

“I suppose the defense will focus on that,” said Joe Lopez, a prominent defense attorney unrelated to the case. “If they texted about the training sessions, and he (Smollett) checked their books for the training, and the pictures, the defense would use all of that.”

What they will surely do is attack the brothers’ credibility – an effort that will surely include a reminder to the jury that the brothers don’t face the same criminal charges as Smollett, even though they admitted to participating in the planned attack.

“Everything is responsible for Smollett, and they are responsible for it,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent Law School, who was not involved in the case. “They got in and went? What the hell is this?”

Erickson said he expects the plaintiffs to come up with this problem before Smollett’s lawyers do, because they don’t want it to look like they’re trying to hide something.

Finally, Smollett’s career could take center stage. On the one hand, prosecutors could make the same point that then-Police Chief Eddie Johnson made when he announced Smollett’s arrest in 2019: that Smollett thought the attack would gain him more notoriety and get him a raise on a hit TV show.

But Lopez said defense attorneys might ask the jury the same question he asked himself.

“How could that help him with anything?” Asked. “He’s really a star.”


Check out AP’s full coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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