In January 2019, Smollett claimed he was victim of a hate crime attack in Chicago, where he was living while filming Empire. The actor — who came out in 2015 — filed a police report, claiming the attackers had shouted racist and homophobic comments as they poured an unknown chemical substance over him and wrapped a rope around his neck. The attackers fled, Smollett said, and he brought himself to the nearest hospital.
After an extensive investigation, it was reported that Smollett staged the incident, paying brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo for assistance in the scheme. After Chicago police closed the case, the brothers sued Smollett for defamation, claiming that his attorneys Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian continue to falsely accuse the brothers of attacking the actor. (That suit is ongoing.)
Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing the false police report, but the prosecutors unexpectedly dropped all charges in March 2019, with the actor forfeiting the $10,000 bond he posted. However, in August, special prosecutor Dann K. Webb was assigned to investigate the sudden dismissal, and said that his office “has now completed all of its investigative steps regarding Jussie Smollett, and has made the decision to further prosecute Mr. Smollett.” The new indictment accused Smollett of making four separate false police reports after the attack.
On Monday, Smollett pleaded not guilty before Judge James Linn. He was the third judge assigned to the case — after William Gamboney and Diane Gordon Cannon, who were both out sick. “I just want a judge that’s here,” Smollett said.
Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo were also present in the court room. The brothers are key witnesses who confessed to Smollett paying them for the staging; in turn, the defense has claimed that they lied to the police and beat Smollett. Their representative, Gloria Schmidt, said they came to support the case. According to the Tribune, the witnesses may attend future court dates.
Smollett’s lawyers, including Tina Glandian, requested a delay in the arraignment. Linn did not grant that delay, but released Smollett on a $20,000 bond. He’ll return to court for the next hearing in March 18th.