jussie smollett trial

Jussie Smollett Trial Updates: Jury Ends First Day of Deliberations Without Verdict

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Jussie Smollett on Tuesday repeatedly denied he staged a racist, anti-gay attack on himself for publicity, telling a prosecutor as the trial neared its end that “there was no hoax on my part” and that two brothers who testified against him are “liars.” NBC 5’s Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

The jury in Jussie Smollett's trial completed its first day of deliberations Wednesday without reaching a verdict. Deliberations began earlier in the day as closing arguments came to an end in the trial for former "Empire" actor.

The trial has so far seen six days of testimony, including from the actor himself, who is accused of staging a racist, anti-gay attack against himself in downtown Chicago to get publicity.

Smollett returned to the witness stand Tuesday at his trial in Chicago, where the actor called claims that he staged the attack “100% false.”

Prosecutors continued cross-examining the 39-year-old who told jurors Monday “there was no hoax” and that he was the victim of a hate crime in his downtown Chicago neighborhood.

Smollett, who faces charges that he lied to Chicago police about the January 2019 attack, sought to refute damaging testimony from two brothers.

They said Smollett, who is gay and Black, orchestrated the hoax to get publicity, giving them $100 for supplies and instructing them to place a noose around his neck and yell homophobic slurs. They also said Smollett gave them a $3,500 check to carry it out.

Below are live updates from inside the courthouse. This will continue to be updated as court resumes Wednesday.

Wednesday

-- Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m. CT. The jury is then expected to begin deliberating whether Smollett is guilty on six counts of a low-level felony for lying to Chicago police about the January 2019 attack.

-- A prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that there is “overwhelming evidence" that Smollett staged a racist, anti-gay attack against himself in downtown Chicago for publicity, then lied to police about it.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb said during his closing argument that what Smollett did in January 2019 caused Chicago police to spend enormous amounts of time and resources investigating an alleged crime that turned out to be fake. Smollett, who is Black and gay, told police someone put a noose around his neck and yelled racist and homophobic slurs.

“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.

“At the end of the day he lacks any credibility whatsoever," Webb said.

-- Smollett's defense attorney told jurors that charges the former “Empire” actor faked an anti-gay, racist attack on himself and lied to police about it rely on the testimony of brothers who are “sophisticated liars” and “the worst type of criminals.”

Attorney Nenye Uche said in his closing argument that during testimony last week in the Chicago courtroom, one of the brothers “said ‘I don’t recall' so many times, it is ridiculous.”

“The entire prosecution’s case, including the foundation of the case, is built like a house of cards," Uche said.

-- Defense has ended its closing arguments. Prosecution will have a chance for rebuttal.

-- Jury instructions being read.

-- The jury begins deliberations at 2:42 p.m. Judge says there are "no time limits."

They are tasked with deciding whether Smollett is guilty on six counts of a low-level felony for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack. He faces one count of felony disorderly conduct for each time he gave a report to three different officers.

--The jury ended its first day of deliberations without a verdict.

Tuesday

-- Jussie Smollett took the witness stand for a second day and more cross-examination by special prosecutor Dan Webb

Smollett testifies repeatedly during questioning of the sequence of events of January 2019 that there was no fake attack, that he was in fact attacked, and he denied the previous testimony that he had planned a staged attack.

Webb then asks about Jan. 27, 2019. Smollett testifies he had gone to pick up Bola Osundairo for a training session at his apartment building’s gym, because Bola said that “Ubers were crazy.”

Smollett says Bola was not wearing work out clothes, nor did he need to because Smollett was the one who would be working out. He said Bola's brother, Ola entered the car and said hello, and nothing more.

Smollett describes Ola as “weird” and as he and Bola smoked weed, he took a phone call, drove around his neighborhood, and because it was “uncomfortable” he used the phone call as an excuse not to work out any longer. 

Webb then asks about the evening of Jan. 28 and Jan. 29, 2019, specifically about the text messages Smollett sent privately to Bola about his flight status back to Chicago. Smollett said Bola called him shortly after landing and that Bola said they would meet at 9:30 the next morning for a training session as planned.

Smollett says no messages were exchanged about the plan to work out that night or the next morning. He denied that the attack was staged and said that he did not trust the Osundairo brothers, and their testimony about the planned attack at 2am was a “bold-faced lie.” 

Webb then picks apart Smollett’s reports to police and his Good Morning America interview where he says the attacker he saw was white. Smollett then clarifies that he said he assumed they were white based on the pale skin he saw, and what they said -- using the n-word, and the reference to MAGA country.

Smollett says he would never call someone white based on how they acted or spoke because “that would be racist.” He said he changed his description to “pale skinned” because he wasn’t certain the attacker was white. 

-- Webb says he has no further questions, and trial goes to break shortly before noon. Either cross-examination will continue or the defense will begin re-direct.

-- The defense had a brief re-direct with Jussie, with Nenye Uche pointing out that Smollett could have lied on the stand about whether the brothers were in the car, since surveillance footage did not show them going into or out of his vehicle at any time, and the windows were tinted. 

Uche went over text messages Smollett sent to someone while he was in the car with the brothers during the “dry run”; Smollett said there were phone calls to that person too. He confirmed he had smoked weed and driven around with Bola before. 

Smollett testified that he cooperated with the FBI investigating the hate mail, by providing a DNA sample and his cell phone, and that he did not trust the CPD with his privacy, and that the brothers asked for $1 million each to testify that he had nothing to do with the attack.

-- In re-cross, Smollett confirmed he provided his phone and DNA sample to the FBI months later. Smollett also clarified upon Webb’s inquiry that the brothers never called or texted or spoke to him about the $2 million arrangement in exchange for favorable testimony; Smollett said instead it was their lawyers or agents who contacted his representatives.

-- The seventh and last witness for the defense was David Elegbe, the Uber driver who had answered the brothers’ Uber request in the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019. He testified that the first one who entered the Uber had been talking, but had not seen a phone. He also testified that the brothers changed their destination mid-ride. Tamara Walker asked Elegbe that an Uber ride can be changed only via the app; Elegbe said if someone else ordered the Uber for a person, that person could change the destination. Elegbe said the brothers saw a cab and asked him to stop driving, and they got out. 

-- Mendenhall in his cross-examination asked if Elegbe knew the two individuals in the car were actors, and suggested that the first one who entered was rehearsing his lines for a staged attack. 

-- The defense rested their case; prosecutors said they had no rebuttal witnesses.

-- Judge Linn instructed the jury that they would begin closing arguments a 9:15a.m. CT Wednesday. 

NBC Chicago/Associated Press