CHICAGO — After more than two and a half years of dramatic developments in the Jussie Smollett case, the former “Empire” actor is officially slated to go to trial in late November.
During a hearing Friday, Judge James Linn said jury selection would begin Nov. 29. Attorneys should be prepared for long days, he said, noting that testimony would likely go until 7 or 8 p.m. each day of the trial.
Linn also denied a media outlet’s request to have cameras in the courtroom during the proceedings.
Smollett’s case has attracted a firestorm of controversy, and the trial is expected to be nothing short of a media circus.
The actor was first charged in early 2019, when police said he orchestrated a phony hate crime on himself with the help of two brothers who are now key witnesses in the case against him. Cook County prosecutors initially charged Smollett with disorderly conduct — then abruptly dropped the case about a month later, with little explanation.
Smollett had performed some community service ahead of the charges being dropped, and agreed to forfeit his bond money to the city of Chicago in exchange for the case’s dismissal — a highly unusual arrangement.
After much public outcry and confusion, a judge appointed veteran attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor to investigate the matter. Webb and his team subsequently convened a special grand jury that brought up Smollett on his new case last year.
Smollett was indicted on six counts of filing a false report — the case for which he is expected to stand trial later this year.
His attorneys on Friday argued a last-chance motion to dismiss the case before trial, saying that Smollett upheld his end of the agreement with Cook County prosecutors by forfeiting his bond and doing the community service. That agreement must still be honored, attorney Nenye Uche said.
“Here we have a deal that was made, and a deal is a deal, that’s an ancient principle,” he said. “How in the world are we here today?”
But, Linn noted, special prosecutors were appointed on the case because a different judge determined the entire first case was essentially void. Issues with the way State’s Attorney Kim Foxx handled her so-called recusal meant that there was no valid prosecutor on the case from start to finish, Judge Michael Toomin ruled in 2019.
Linn denied the defense’s request to dismiss the case, and told attorneys to be in his courtroom first thing Nov. 29 to begin jury selection.