A senior Black Lives Matter leader has strongly defended Jussie Smollett as he awaits the verdict in his trial on allegations of faking a hate crime, insisting that Smollett should be acquitted because ‘we can never believe police’.
Smollett, 39, is currently on trial in Chicago, accused of having orchestrated a fake attack on himself in January 2019, then lied to Chicago police about being the victim of an anti-gay, racist hate crime.
Jurors are expected to resume deliberations on Thursday, having deliberated for about two hours on Wednesday following a roughly one-week trial.
On Tuesday, the co-founder of BLM’s Los Angeles chapter, Dr Melina Abdullah, said Smollett’s name should be cleared.
‘It’s not about a trial or a verdict decided in a white supremacist charade, it’s about how we treat our community when corrupt systems are working to devalue their lives,’ wrote Abdullah.
Actor Jussie Smollett, right, departs with his mother Janet, from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Wednesday
Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM’s Los Angeles chapter, on Tuesday defended Smollett
She said that Smollett should not be on trial, explaining: ‘We find ourselves, once again, being forced to put our lives and our value in the hands of judges and juries operating in a system that is designed to oppress us, while continuing to face a corrupt and violent police department, which has proven time and again to have no respect for our lives.’
Abdullah, chair of the Pan-African Studies department at California State University, said that police could never be trusted, and her organization was seeking the dismantling of all police departments.
‘In our commitment to abolition, we can never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (CPD) over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom,’ Abdullah said.
‘While policing at-large is an irredeemable institution, CPD is notorious for its long and deep history of corruption, racism, and brutality.’
She added: ‘Chicago police consistently demonstrate that they are among the worst of the worst. Police lie and Chicago police lie especially.’
BLM created a poster of Smollett to accompany their statement, issued on Tuesday
Smollett is seen on Wednesday in Chicago, leaving court as the jury began deliberations
Abdullah’s comments run counter to the anger expressed by other liberals, when it was first reported that Smollett could have paid people to stage the racial attack in a bid to win sympathy from the producers of his show, Empire.
In February 2019, when reports emerged that Smollett’s story was perhaps not what it seemed, Reverend Al Sharpton was among those to condemn him.
‘I, among many others when hearing of the report, said that the reports were horrific and that we should come with all that we can come with in law enforcement to find out what happened and the guilty should suffer the maximum,’ said the famed civil rights leader.
‘I still maintain that.
‘And if it is that Smollett and these gentlemen did in some way perpetuate something that is not true, they ought to face accountability to the maximum.’
Melina Abdullah (seen above in Los Angeles in June 2020), a co-founder of Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter, has defended Smollett
Abdullah is a supporter of the ‘defund the police’ movement that erupted in the wake of the police-involved killing of George Floyd last year. A protest is seen above in LA on June 1, 2020
The New York Anti-Violence project, which works to offer free counseling and eliminate violence and crime directed at LGBTQ and HIV-positive individuals, said at the time they were dismayed at the possibility of Smollett crying wolf.
‘Far too many survivors aren’t believed and don’t get justice for the violence they experience,’ the group said.
‘That’s why we are quick to affirm and believe survivors when they share their stories.
‘For many LGBTQ people across this country, hate violence on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race and a combination of all of those identities is a daily experience. Increasingly, these experiences with hate violence end up being fatal.
‘These truths musn’t be overshadowed under these unique circumstances.’
Heidi Beirich, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks and monitors hate groups and crimes, said she was angry at the alleged events.
‘Obviously, I hate the fact that Jussie Smollett lied,’ Beirich said, based on the Chicago police’s account.
‘It is going to give people ammunition to claim that all hate crimes are fake, all hate crime are lies.
‘So, of course we are upset with Smollett for doing this, for opening this door even wider.’
Smollett took the stand to defend himself in his trial, insisting that he did not invent the story of being attacked, and saying the two brothers who claimed they were paid to stage the crime were liars
Smollett has been supported by his mother Janet throughout the week-long trial
In closing arguments earlier on Wednesday, a prosecutor told jurors there is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that Smollett staged the attack, then lied to police about it for publicity.
Smollett could face three years in prison if he is convicted
His defense attorney said prosecutors’ case was based on lies.
Two brothers testified last week that Smollett recruited them to fake the attack near his home in downtown Chicago.
They said Smollett, who is black and gay, told them to put a noose around his neck, yell racist and homophobic slurs, and rough him up in view of a surveillance camera.
He maintains his innocence and has offered different defenses throughout the trial.
First, his attorneys said he was attacked by brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo because they ‘hated’ who he was and are homophobic.
Then they suggested that the pair wanted to scare him into thinking that he needed security, and that he’d hire them as his bodyguards.
Smollett testified that he was the victim of a real hate crime, telling jurors ‘there was no hoax.’
He called the brothers ‘liars’ and said the $3,500 check he wrote them was for meal and workout plans.
His attorneys argued that the brothers attacked the actor because they are homophobic and that they made up the story about the attack being staged – but said they would not testify against Smollett if he paid them each $1 million.
Abel is shown outside court after testifying against Smollett last week. Olabinjo Osundairo, who goes by Ola, was not as close to the star. They told DailyMail.com at the trial that they weren’t there out of malice or to seal his fate, but to tell the truth
In his closing argument on Wednesday, special prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury that Smollett caused Chicago police to spend enormous resources investigating what they believe was a fake crime.
‘Besides being against the law, it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country,’ Webb said.
He also accused Smollett of lying to jurors, saying surveillance video from before the alleged attack and that night contradicts key moments of Smollett’s testimony.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche called the brothers ‘sophisticated liars’ who may have been motivated to attack Smollett because of homophobia or because they wanted to be hired to work as his security.
‘These guys want to make money,’ he said.
Webb questioned why Smollett didn’t turn over his cellphone to police or give them a DNA sample or access to his medical records to help with the investigation.
Smollett testified he doesn’t trust Chicago police, and that he was concerned about his privacy.
‘If he was a true victim of a crime he would not be withholding evidence,’ Webb said.
Uche called it ‘nonsense’ for Chicago police to ask Smollett for his DNA when he was still considered the victim of a crime.
He noted Smollett later provided DNA to the FBI for a separate investigation into hate mail he had received at the Empire studio shortly before the alleged attack.
‘He wasn’t hiding anything,’ Uche said.
The disorderly conduct charge is a class 4 felony that carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is convicted, he would likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.
TIMELINE OF JUSSIE SMOLLETT HOAX ATTACK SCANDAL
Jan. 22, 2019
Smollett receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the studio in Chicago where “Empire” is filmed. Police later say they believe Smollett sent the letter himself.
The brothers said Smollett also sent himself this letter to the Fox studio where Empire is filmed a week before the attack. If he did, he faces another 5-10 years in prison on a federal mail fraud charge
Police say Smollett cut his own cheek to make it look like he had suffered injuries in the attack
Jan. 29, 2019
Jussie Smollett tells police he was attacked by two men in downtown Chicago at 2 a.m.
The actor says the men used racist and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an “unknown substance” on him.
Police say Smollett, who is Black and gay, told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in “MAGA country’
Jan. 30, 2019
Chicago police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack. Police obtain and release images of two people they want to question, calling them ‘persons of interest’
Feb. 1, 2019
Smollett issues a statement saying he’s OK, that he’s working with authorities and has been ‘100 percent factual and consistent on every level.’
Feb. 2, 2019
Smollett opens a concert in West Hollywood, California, with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win
Police released this image of ‘persons of interest’ taken near the reported attack
Feb. 13, 2019
Chicago police pick up two Nigerian brothers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after police learn at least one worked on Empire
Police question them and search their apartment
Jussie Smollett on Good Morning America on February 14, 2019
February 20, 2019
Smollett is charged
Feb. 21, 2019
Chicago police say Smollett surrenders to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, punishable by up to three years in prison.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the two brothers to help him.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson tore through Smollett at a press conference on Thursday where he labeled him ‘shameful’ and ‘despicable’
Jussie Smollett is shown in his mugshot in February 2019
Feb. 22, 2019
Empire producers say Smollett’s character to be removed from the final two episodes of the season.
March 7, 2019
A Cook County grand jury returns a 16-count indictment charging Smollett with falsely reporting an offense
March 26, 2019
Smollett’s attorneys say charges alleging he lied to police have been dropped.
March 28, 2019
A city official says Chicago is seeking $130,000 from Smollett to cover the cost of the investigation into his reported beating, which police say was staged.
Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian claims on TV that the attackers could have been wearing ‘white face’ and that’s what made him describe them as light-skinned
April 11, 2019
The city of Chicago files a lawsuit seeking to recoup the investigation costs.
Jussie Smollett’s lawyer Tina Glandian suggested on Thursday that the reason he told police his Nigerian attackers were white was because they ‘might have been wearing white face’ and had disguised themselves. Her evidence of the theory is 2016 video of Abel Osundairo (right) dressed up as the Joker
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the Smollett case
April 23, 2019
The brothers who said they helped Smollett stage the attack file a defamation lawsuit against the actor’s attorneys.
Aug. 23, 2019
Judge names former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor to investigate why charges against Smollett were dropped.
Feb. 11, 2020
Webb says grand jury returns six-count indictment against Smollett, accusing him of lying to police.
Feb. 24, 2020
Smollett pleads not guilty to restored charges.
Oct. 15, 2021
Judge James Linn denies a last-ditch effort to dismiss the criminal case against Smollett and sets his trial for Nov. 29.
November 29, 2021: Jury selection begins