Judge James Linn said during an October hearing no cameras would be allowed in court. On the same day, attorneys for the actor made a final push to have the case dismissed. The judge denied the motion.
With the trial kicking off more than two years after Smollett said he was attacked, here’s a look at how we got here.
Smollett said he was attacked
Police began an investigation, taking Smollett’s sweater and rope and eventually obtaining video showing the actor entering a Lowe’s store after the alleged attack with what appeared to be a noose around his neck.
Two brothers confess to plot
“As far as we can tell, the scratching and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted,” Johnson said in late February 2019.
Smollett is indicted on 16 felony counts
An attorney for Smollett at the time called the indictment a “prosecutorial overkill” and a “desperate attempt to make headlines,” adding the actor maintained his innocence.
About a week before the charges were announced, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx removed herself from the case to address potential concerns of impartiality “based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in this case,” a spokeswoman from her office said.
All charges are dropped
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement.
First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, the lead prosecutor, said Smollett had no prior felonies and was not a danger to the community. He added that thousands of other cases had similar results but that this one stood out in the media because of Smollett’s celebrity.
After a brief appearance in a courtroom, Smollett told reporters he was thankful to everyone who stood by him and that he had been “truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”
His attorney, Patricia Brown, said the two brothers were Smollett’s trainers and that he only paid them for “nutrition and training.”
“This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion,” two of the actor’s attorneys said in a statement. “Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.”
City officials condemned the dropped charges, with the former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel calling the case a “whitewash of justice” that sent a “clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power, you’ll get treated one way. Other people will be treated another way.”
Johnson, the former police superintendent, said he stood by the investigators’ conclusions that Smollett staged the attack, saying the way Smollett could have cleared his name was “in a court of law so that everybody could see the evidence.”
Police release investigative reports
After the reports were made public, the police department was “then advised of a court order prohibiting such release,” then-police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet.
Judge approves a special prosecutor
Smollett’s publicist declined to comment on the search warrant at the time. Google did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment at the time.
Grand jury returns six-count indictment
The indictment charged Smollett with making four separate false reports to Chicago police officers, according to a statement from Webb’s office released at that time.
Several factors went into that determination, “including the extensive nature of Mr. Smollett’s false police reports, and the resources expended by the Chicago Police Department to investigate these false reports,” Webb said.
Smollett’s attorney, Tina Glandian, said in a statement following the six-count indictment that the earlier charges were appropriately dismissed “because they were not supported by the evidence” and said the new attempt to prosecute the actor “is clearly all about politics not justice.”
Key moments in the trial
The criminal trial began on November 29 and testimony lasted for just over a week. Both the defense and the prosecution called seven witnesses each.
Bola Osundairo, who was closer to Smollett, told the court that Smollett “wanted me to fake beat him up.” He said he agreed to do so because he felt indebted to the actor.
“I believed he could help further my acting career,” Bola Osundairo testified. “He told me that we would need another person to fake beat him up. He mentioned could my brother do it. I said yes.”
His brother Ola Osundairo told jurors that Smollett “had this crazy idea of having two MAGA supporters attack him,” and that he wanted “to put that on social media.”
“Mr. Smollett asked you to fake attack him?” deputy special prosecutor Sam Mendenhall asked.
“Yes,” Ola Osundairo responded.
“Pretending to be Trump supporters?” Mendenhall continued.
“Yes,” Ola Osundairo said.
“So he could then post it on social media?” the prosecutor continued.
“Yes,” Ola Osundairo answered.
As per their plan, the brothers met Smollett at about 2 a.m. by his apartment during a cold snap known as a “polar vortex,” they testified. There, as he had instructed, they yelled “Empire, f****t, n***er, MAGA,” fake punched him, poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck, they testified.
“If you had not had advanced discussions with Jussie Smollett how would you know where he would be at 2 a.m. in a polar vortex?” special prosecutor Dan Webb asked.
“I wouldn’t,” Bola Osundairo responded.
The defense, however, has repeatedly said Smollett was a real victim of an attack. They have suggested that the brothers were motivated by homophobia and/or an attempt to scare Smollett into hiring them as security.
“Have you ever planned a hoax?” his attorney asked.
“Never in my life,” Smollett said.
He also cast doubt on the brothers’ true motivations. He said he received a “hate letter” in the mail at the “Empire” studio in Chicago on January 22, 2019, seven days before the alleged attack. Afterward, Bola Osundairo approached him about becoming his personal security guard, something Osundairo had repeatedly asked him, Smollett testified.
In addition, he testified that he formed a sexual relationship with Bola Osundairo but said he was “creeped out” by Ola Osundairo. Bola Osundairo denied he had any sexual relationship with Smollett.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Omar Jimenez, Bill Kirkos and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.
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