The trial in the Chicago case against Jussie Smollett concluded its fifth day of deliberations on Monday morning, after three days of testimony.
Chicago police believe the 36-year-old theatre star staged an attack on himself in January, after reporting that he was the victim of a hate crime. Smollett is charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of felony lying to police. The judge, Steven Watkins, released Smollett on $100,000 bond and ordered him to stay 100 yards away from the individuals named as co-conspirators by the prosecution, as well as places of employment and places of residence, as part of the order.
Illinois judges regularly issue such strict orders for defendants convicted of felonies, such as for contempt or removing false information from a police report. The order was handed down by Watkins on the same day as the court’s clerk informed the press that the proceedings were over for the day. Wearing his Blackhawks jersey, Smollett sat next to his attorneys, high-profile criminal defence attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson.
District 7 police superintendent Eddie Johnson gave emotional testimony on Saturday about the alleged attack on Smollett, which involved both a bashing and asphyxiation. Johnson described the beating as “black as hell”, but said that the assault “can be described as racist, homophobic and also a MAGA attack”, a reference to the Make America Great Again hat that Smollett was allegedly wearing at the time. Smollett, however, has said that he did not wear that hat.
In order to understand Smollett’s mindset at the time of the attack, Johnson revealed the two friends who witnessed the beating as they headed home at about 1am had, like him, “covered their mouths with their hands”.
“Did you know what would happen?” Johnson asked rhetorically, addressing Smollett. “Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out.”
When Smollett was initially questioned by police, he said that he was out dancing at the time of the incident, and Johnson told the court that someone yelled “MAGA country” at Smollett, before appearing to hit him in the back of the head. Johnson also asserted that Smollett was “singled out” by the attackers, noting that the previous two encounters he had had with them had been consensual. Johnson also suggested that the man who Smollett later acknowledged was the assailant was the same man who called him “MAGA” earlier in the night.
Meanwhile, an expert in biomechanics is set to testify on Monday, regarding where Smollett had fallen on the scale of incident severity. On Saturday, the prosecution presented at least 14 medical professionals and specialists that examined and evaluated Smollett’s injuries, with two of them testifying that Smollett had most likely suffered injuries to the face or the back of his head, which could have led to loss of consciousness. Another man who was one of the triage staff on the night of the alleged attack said that Smollett may have broken his rib. The prosecution rested its case on Friday afternoon, after four days of testimony.
Smollett and his attorneys have blamed the attack on his self-acknowledged “fantasy”, in a statement which expressed skepticism that Smollett could have staged the entire thing. The prosecutor in the case, Joseph McMahon, has frequently referred to Smollett as a “prima donna” and has asked Smollett’s attorneys if they had never seen the actor in a single moment when he could have given the impression that he had given up on his own safety.
Smollett appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in February, where he said that the incident had shocked him. Smollett concluded his appearance by adding: “I want to send my love to the LGBTQ community, because they’ve been through some really tough times and my whole family, us as a family, we love them.”