Thu | Jan 27, 2022

Jussie Smollett back in court for hearing about his lawyer

Published:Friday | July 16, 2021 | 12:09 AM
Brothers Olabinjo Osundairo (left) and Abimbola Osundairo.
Brothers Olabinjo Osundairo (left) and Abimbola Osundairo.
Actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.
Actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.


Jussie Smollett returned to court Wednesday for the first time in a year for a five-hour hearing to determine whether one of the actor’s attorneys should be allowed to keep representing him in his case against accusations that he staged a racist and homophobic attack against himself.

The hearing had nothing to with the charges against Smollett, who is accused of lying to police when he reported that two masked men attacked him in downtown Chicago in January 2019. But because the media and the public were not allowed to attend the hearing that began in the morning and lasted well into the afternoon, it was unclear exactly what was being said in the courtroom.

When Cook County Judge James Linn ordered the hearing, he said it centred on the question of whether Nenye Uche had a conflict of interest after two key witnesses in the case said they spoke to him. The witnesses in question are brothers who prosecutors said Smollett hired and paid to carry out what Smollett maintains was an attack.

After Uche joined Smollett’s legal team, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo alleged that Uche had spoken with them about previously representing them and talked to them about the case. That could result in the judge determining the attorney has a conflict of interest that would require him to bar him from representing Smollett. Uche has denied talking to the brothers.

Linn will announce his decision regarding Uche later, said attorneys emerging from the private hearing late Wednesday.

A court spokesman said the next hearing in the case of People vs Jussie Smollett will be on Zoom on August 2, before Linn.

Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, an attorney for the Osundairos, told reporters they were confident the judge would rule with prosecutors and disqualify Uche.

“I think enough evidence and proof was laid out today to support our position,” she said.

The hearing marks the latest twist in a case that has been full of them since Smollett – a black, gay man who starred in the television show Empire – told police that he was walking down the street in the middle of the night when two men attacked him, doused him with liquid and looped a makeshift noose around his neck before running off.

What started as a search for Smollett’s attackers turned into allegations by police that Smollett staged the whole thing to further his career.

Smollett has maintained his innocence and has pleaded not guilty. But the allegations cost him his role on Empire, made him the source of ridicule from everyone, from basketball analyst Charles Barkley to comedian Dave Chappelle. And his contention that his attackers told him he was in “MAGA country”, a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’, helped turn the incident into a national and international sensation.

Smollett has had court hearings throughout 2020 and 2021, but they have not been held in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.