Jussie Smollett, on Trial for Hate-Crime Hoax, Is the Real Victim, His Lawyer Says

The lawyer for former Empire actor Jussie Smollett argued Monday that his client was the victim of a legitimate crime, despite evidence from the prosecution stating that Smollett had staged the crime himself.

"Jussie Smollett is a real victim," defense attorney Nenye Uche stated in court on the first day of the trial, adding that there was no concrete evidence to the prosecution's claim that the actor had made up the attack.

Uche additionally told the jurors that the prosecution team was "going to lie to your face" about the facts of the case.

Smollett first made headlines across the nation in January 2019, after he said that he was the victim of a hate crime. Smollett, who is Black and gay, told law enforcement that a pair of brothers who supported then-President Donald Trump had attacked him on the street in Chicago.

However, investigators soon arrested Smollett, accusing him of paying the brothers to stage the crime.

Jussie Smollett Trial
The trial of Jussie Smollett began Monday, and while the prosecution argued that the actor had paid to have the crime committed, Smollett's defense pushed back, stating that he was the victim of a real crime. Here, Smollett can be seen being led into court in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty

An indictment in 2020 charged Smollett with felony disorderly conduct, a class 4 felony that could result in up to three years in prison. However, judicial analysts stated that, if convicted, Smollett would likely be placed on probation.

In court, the prosecution presented evidence that they said proved that Smollett and his attackers were working together.

"When he reported the fake hate crime, that was a real crime," special prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury.

The prosecution stated that the plot arose because Smollett was reportedly upset at how Empire's parent studio, Fox, had handled his receiving of a racist letter with Trump's MAGA slogan drawn on it.

Webb went on to say that Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to fake the attack, and provided them instructions on buying red MAGA hats and "a rope to make it look like a hate crime." Smollett allegedly also gave the brothers money to buy these supplies.

Webb added that he wanted the jurors to see surveillance video and still footage from the night that Smollett was attacked. One of these still shots shows Smollett still walking into his apartment with a sandwich after the alleged attack, according to the Associated Press.

However, despite this evidence, the defense, led by Uche, offered counterpoints to these statements, and argued that Smollett planning the crime himself was illogical. Uche went on to say that the brothers' story was unreliable and full of holes, while Smollett's was sound.

"At the end of the day, they want you to believe Jussie was stupid enough to pay for a hoax with a check but was smart enough to pay (for supplies) with a $100 bill," Uche said, adding that the prosecution's claim that such a crime would be paid for via check did not make sense.

Uche also stated that he believed a third attacker may have been involved in the beating, and an eyewitness report taken by Chicago police may corroborate this claim. Both of the brothers are Black men from Nigeria, but the eyewitness stated that she saw a white man at the scene that night.

Uche also countered the allegation that Smollett had perpetrated the attack to get back at Fox Studios, stating that the actor had actually declined additional security from the studio.

Newsweek has reached out to Smollett's defense team for comment.