CHICAGO – “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s legal team said Tuesday that they “welcome” cameras in the courtroom as prosecutors present their case that the actor staged an attack that made him look like the victim of a vicious hate crime.
Smollett was in court for a brief hearing, where attorney Tina Glandian said she wants cameras in the courtroom “so (the public) can see evidence and lack thereof” in the disorderly conduct case against the actor.
Illinois courts typically do not allow cameras in the courts, but state judges have discretion to allow proceedings to be filmed if they feel it is in the public interest.
“There has been a lot of misinformation in this case that has been presented as fact,” Glandian told reporters following Tuesday’s hearing. “The evidence against Mr. Smollett is demonstrably false. We welcome cameras in the courtroom so the public and media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is going to be, actually, a lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett.”
Prosecutors said they have no objections to allowing cameras in the courtroom.
Judge LeRoy Martin Jr., Cook County Circuit Court’s criminal division presiding judge, said that he will allow a videographer for Smollett’s Thursday court appearance, when he is expected to be arraigned. Martin is also expected to assign the case to a trial judge at the next hearing.
Martin said that the trial judge will determine whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom for proceedings in Smollet’s case beyond Thursday.
Smollett did not comment following the hearing. He was accompanied to court Tuesday by two of his brothers, a sister-in-law and his assistant.
A grand jury indicted Smollett last week on 16 felony counts, accusing him of staging a racist and homophobic attack by two masked men near his Chicago apartment.
Police allege that Smollett, who is black and gay, staged the Jan. 29 attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to bolster his profile.
He told police that two assailants beat him and threw a rope around his neck, while hurling racial and anti-gay slurs at him. Smollett also told police that one of the attackers also yelled, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
Police arrested two men, brothers who knew Smollett and had worked with him on “Empire,” weeks after the incident and identified them as suspects. They later released the brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, without charge.
The brothers told police that Smollett plotted the assault, gave them money to purchase supplies for the ruse and paid them $3,500 for taking part in the alleged plot.
Smollett is free on $100,000 bond.
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