Jussie Smollett's lawyers portray actor as a victim twice over — of attack and frame-up

Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

CHICAGO -- Calling Jussie Smollett's prosecution a "travesty of justice," the actor's attorneys on Friday laid out arguments for his innocence in the case that made him an object of widespread derision and sparked the greatest crisis of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's career.

Far from being the architect of a hoax hate crime, Smollett's attorneys say he was, in fact, a victim twice over: First he suffered a real attack at the hands of two homophobic brothers and then the brothers framed Smollett by lying to police.

The brothers were also working with at least one other conspirator -- an as-yet unidentified white man, the attorneys alleged for the first time in the filing.

Smollett's attorneys laid out their defense in the greatest detail yet, all in an uphill effort to persuade Cook County Judge Michael Toomin to reverse his decision to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate why Foxx's office in late March suddenly dropped all charges alleging Smollett made up the attack to promote his career. Toomin's decision last month marked the latest bombshell in a case that has only gotten thornier since prosecutors abandoned the case less than three weeks after indicting Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct.

"Not only have the media and the public failed to critically look at the evidence (and lack thereof) against Mr. Smollett, but now (Toomin) has accepted false media reports to presume Mr. Smollett guilty of charges which he pled not guilty to and which were dismissed against him," the filing said.

Reached by phone Friday, the brothers' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, said Friday she hadn't yet read the Smollett's defense new filings but expressed confidence that "the evidence will come out."


"My clients have fully cooperated, and will continue to fully cooperate with (prosecutors) and the police," she said.

Smollett, then an actor on the "Empire" TV series, created a media firestorm in late January when he reported being the victim of an attack by two people -- one white -- who shouted racist and homophobic slurs and put a noose around his neck near his home in the Streeterville neighborhood. Smollett is black and openly gay.

Weeks later, though, Smollett was criminally charged for allegedly staging the attack with the help of Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, two brothers of Nigerian descent whom police said he agreed to pay $3,500.

But less than three weeks after indicting Smollett on the false-report charges, Foxx's office dropped all charges at an unannounced court hearing while still insisting to reporters later that same day that police had gotten it right. Days later, though, Foxx herself, while offering no specifics, suggested for the first time that the evidence against Smollett was shakier.


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