Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty To New Charges, Asks Illinois Supreme Court To Pause Case
Updated at 1:51 p.m.
Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to press the pause button on a new criminal case stemming from his role in an alleged Chicago hoax that tied up police detectives for weeks.
Smollett is also asking a Cook County judge to throw out the charges based on double-jeopardy grounds.
The motions were filed Monday around the time Smollett pleaded not guilty to six counts of felony disorderly conduct. An indictment accuses him of staging a hate crime against himself more than a year ago and then falsely reporting to police that the attack was real.
A somber looking Smollett, 37, entered the county’s main criminal courthouse wearing a black suit, tie and overcoat with sunglasses. Flanked by his legal team, Smollett made his way past nearly two-dozen TV cameras in the courthouse lobby.
Appearing later in court, Smollett stood quietly as Judge James B. Linn allowed the actor to remain free while he awaits trial. The only word Smollet uttered aloud came when Linn asked the actor whether he understood he could be tried and convicted in absentia if he failed to show up to court.
“Yes,” Smollett answered meekly.
The actor’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the not-guilty pleas and handed Linn a motion that argues for the charges to be dismissed based on the double-jeopardy grounds.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Glandian said that motion stems from Smollett’s forfeiture of a $10,000 bond last year when Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped an earlier set of charges against him.
“That in essence was a punishment stemming from the criminal proceedings and, therefore, trying to punish him again a second time around is not permitted,” she said. “You don’t just get a do-over.”
Glandian’s motions to the Illinois Supreme Court, filed Monday afternoon, ask for a stay in the case and challenge the authority of Cook County Judge Michael Toomin last year to order a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the allegations.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct in the same courthouse last year, just weeks before Foxx’s office announced it was dismissing the case, angering police and City Hall.
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that two masked men attacked him as he was walking home in the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019. He said they made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing, and that at least one of his attackers was a white man who told him he was in “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Weeks later, police alleged that Smollett had paid two friends to help stage the attack.
Those men, brothers Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, are bodybuilders and aspiring actors whom Smollett knew from the Empire set and the gym.
The brothers observed Monday’s court proceedings and could be star witnesses for the state if Smollett’s case makes it to trial.
Their attorney, Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, told reporters outside court after the hearing that the brothers appeared in court to “support the process.”
Smollett has denied allegations he staged the attack to get attention and further his career.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, a former U.S. attorney appointed by Toomin to reexamine the case, represented the state on Monday and did not comment after the hearing. Foxx’s office is not involved in the new case against Smollett.
Glandian has questioned the integrity of Webb’s investigation, pointing out that his probe relied on the same detectives who were part of the original investigation despite pending civil claims that Smollett is pursuing against the city and police for malicious prosecution.
Foxx’s handling of the case, meanwhile, has become a key issue in her bid for reelection. Her opponents in next month’s Democratic primary have accused her of acting haphazardly and indecisively.