Jury Selection in Jussie Smollett Case to Start in November

CHICAGO — Jury selection in the trial of the actor Jussie Smollett will begin Nov. 29, a Cook County judge said at a hearing on Tuesday.

Mr. Smollett is charged with disorderly conduct in what prosecutors say was the staging of an attack in 2019. Mr. Smollett has pleaded not guilty.

The case began on Jan. 29, 2019, when Mr. Smollett alleged that two men assaulted him in a racist and homophobic attack as he was returning home from a sandwich shop. He said that he was beaten, had an “unknown chemical substance” poured on him, was called racist and homophobic slurs and had a rope put around his neck.

On Feb. 20, 2019, the Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, charged Mr. Smollett with filing a false police report. The charges were dropped, and in August of that year, a judge appointed a special prosecutor, Dan K. Webb, to the case. (The judge said Ms. Foxx hadn’t followed procedure earlier in the case.)

When he completed his investigation, Mr. Webb said that Mr. Smollett was being indicted again, on six felony counts of disorderly conduct. Mr. Webb also found that while Ms. Foxx’s office did not violate the law in handling the case, it did abuse its discretion in dropping the charges and he found that the office put out false or misleading public statements about why it did so.

Mr. Smollett and his lawyers (there were eight present at a video conference hearing on Tuesday) have been in front of Cook County Circuit Court Judge James B. Linn on several occasions. But a date was only set now because of the pandemic, the volume of discovery in the case, and a dispute over who could represent Mr. Smollett.

In March 2020, one lawyer, Nenye Uche, filed paperwork to join Mr. Smollett’s defense team, but Mr. Webb objected, citing a conflict of interest because, shortly after the Jan. 29 incident, Mr. Uche had interviewed two brothers — Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — who could be witnesses for the prosecution.

In July, Judge Linn ruled against Mr. Webb, saying that Mr. Uche could represent Mr. Smollett but could not question the brothers at trial.

The judge set the date for jury selection after lawyers met in a breakout room for 30 minutes. Before jury selection, though, on Oct. 15, there will be a hearing on a new motion to dismiss the case.

Mr. Smollett did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Smollett also faces a lawsuit from the City of Chicago, claiming the actor owes the city more than $130,000 to cover police overtime costs incurred while they investigated what they say is a hoax.

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