The only black juror in the Jussie Smollet trial says the actor’s testimony made no sense and he couldn’t figure out why Smollett would put back on the noose that his alleged attackers placed around his neck.
Andre Hope, 63, said: ‘As an African American person, I’m not putting that noose back on at all.’
Last week, Smollett was convicted on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for staging a racist and homophobic hate crime on himself in January 2019. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
The actor, known for his role in Fox’s musical drama Empire, paid two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to attack him and later claimed that they were actually two white men who shouted, ‘this is MAGA country n*****,’ in reference to Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, as they brutalized him.
Andre Hope, the only black juror in the Jussie Smollett trial, says he was confused as to why Smollett wouldn’t have immediately taken off the noose his attackers placed around him
In June 2019, Chicago police released bodycam footage of the Empire actor wearing a noose he claimed his assailants allegedly put on him during the January 2019 attack
Smollett is seen leaving a courthouse in Chicago on December 9 after being convicted on five of six counts of disorderly conduct for faking a hate crime against himself
Hope called the case ‘sad’ in an interview with WLS in Chicago on Tuesday.
‘I still have not figured out a motive for why he did – why this had to even happen,’ said Hope, who was not familiar with Smollett before the trial. ‘He was a star.’
Most confounding of all was Smollett’s choice to don the noose that his attackers allegedly placed around his neck when he was met by police minutes after the incident.
In June 2019, Chicago police released bodycam footage from Smollett’s Chicago apartment about 40 minutes after responding to a 911 hate crime call.
They found the actor standing with a long rope visibly circling his neck. His face is muzzed in the footage.
Aside from wondering why he didn’t immediately take it off, Hope couldn’t make sense of the rest of Smollett’s claims.
‘Two o’clock in the morning. Cold outside. When you just use your common sense as what’s there, yeah it just – it didn’t add up,’ Hope said.
Smollett is now awaiting sentencing.
Nigerian brothers Abimbola and Olanbinjio Osundairo admitted they were paid $3,500 to stage an attack on Smollett, who first met Abimbola on the set of Fox’s Empire
Hope, a 63-year-old retired Cook County employee, called the entire case ‘sad’ and decried the lack of diversity in the jury, where he was the only African-American member
On December 9, the actor stood rigid and showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts on five of the six counts of disorderly conduct were read out in the Chicago courtroom by Judge James Linn.
‘For Mr Smollett to get up and lie for hours and hours, that really compounded his misconduct,’ said Dan Webb, the special prosecutor.
Webb reminded journalists that 26 police officers spent 3,000 hours probing the fake attack against Smollett in a bid to help the disgraced actor find the people who he falsely claimed attacked him.
Smollett – who was found not guilty of a sixth count – had paced nervously, continually straightening his tie and adjusting the jacket of his gray suit before the jurors came in to deliver the devastating blow.
Back in 2019, Smollett insisted to police that the attackers were white, because he saw a glimpse of skin in a gap in one of the men’s ski masks. He filed a hate crime and a battery report.
At first, Smollett insisted that the attackers were white, because he saw a glimpse of skin. He was first arrested in February 2019 on allegations that he filed a false police report
In fact, the fake attack was carried out by Nigerian brothers Abimbola and Olanbinjio Osundairo, who the star had paid $3,500. And the actor changed his story, saying in court his attackers had ‘pale’ skin.
The star had hired Abimbola, known as Bola, as fitness coach to help him get ‘ripped’ for a music video, the court heard. They met for the first time in 2017 on the set of Empire when the Nigerian was working as an extra.
Bola took the stand and told jurors that Smollett had asked him to ‘fake beat him up’ and wanted him to use an anti-gay slur and say MAGA during a staged attack.
He said he and Smollett had a brotherly bond. ‘We became good friends. I would say I would call him my brother,’ he added.
‘I was confused. I looked puzzled,’ he told jurors. ‘He explained that he wanted me to fake beat him up.
Smollett, pictured on December 9 arriving at the Leighton Criminal Court to hear the verdict, faces 20 years in prison after he was convicted last week
‘I agreed to do it because.. I felt indebted to Jussie. I also believed he could help further my acting career. He told me that we needed another person to fake beat him up. He mentioned, could my brother do it. I said yes.’
The brothers left for Nigeria shortly after the January 2019 hoax and were arrested when they returned mid-February. They cooperated with the police, saying they were hired for the attack.
Smollett was first arrested in February 2019, on allegations that he made a false police report. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson claimed at the time the star staged the stunt because he was ‘dissatisfied’ with his $100,000 an episode salary on Empire.
The cop added Smollett ‘took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career… this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve’.
Smollett was first hit with 16 disorderly conduct charges.
But at his first arraignment in March 2019, these were suddenly dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, sparking fury with cops and then-mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb took on the case in 2020, after Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped a first set of charges against him in a decision that was widely criticized as an example of nepotism.
Nenye Uche, Smollett’s attorney, said after the verdict that they were ‘disappointed’ but he was confident they would win on appeal
Foxx had been in contact with one of Smollett’s sisters in the days and weeks before he was arrested or was a suspect in the case. She also spoke with Tina Chen, Michelle Obama’s associate and friend who was also part of founding #MeToo.
Chen has since said she was never trying to influence the investigation and that Smollett was a victim at the time.
A year later, Special Prosecutor Webb announced the six new felony charges against Smollett after a grand jury revived the criminal case against him.
Webb nailed Smollett by branding him a liar in his closing arguments at Chicago’s Leighton Criminal Courthouse earlier this month – with the jury agreeing.
Over the course of the trial, Smollett testified that he and Abimbola Osundairo had been to gay bathhouses, where they had done drugs and ‘masturbated together’ in a private room.
The actor’s attorneys claimed that it was a ‘real’ attack and that Osundairo and his brother, Olabingo, made up the story about a hoax then asked Smollett for $1 million each to not testify against him at trial.
Osundairo admitted that he had gone to the bathhouse with Smollett when he was cross-examined last week on the stand by the defense lawyers, but testified that there was no relationship between the two and was unaware if the bathhouses they’d gone to were frequented by gay people.
Smollett contradicted those claims, saying he and Abimbola got a private room and ‘there was some touching.’ The actor also said there was gay pornography on the bathhouse walls.
The Osundairos have sued Smollett’s lawyers, claiming they were portrayed as liars and that claims that ‘Bola Osundairo is homosexual endangers him and the lives of his Nigerian family’
Hope, the only black juror in the case, said he didn’t consider the diversity of the jury fair.
‘Because how can we say that this is a jury of your peers when there’s only one African American?’ he told WLAS. ‘And there were plenty there, so you could’ve gotten two, three four. African Americans can handle the truth, too. And we can give an impartial judgement on a case.’
The retired Cook County Forest Preserves employee has two sons the age of Smollett, who is 39, and says he doesn’t think the actor deserves to go to prison.
He also told the station he would like to see the actor get a second chance in Hollywood.
Smollett, meanwhile, still faces a $130,000 lawsuit from the City of Chicago and more legal trouble from the brothers he hired to attack him.
The Chicago Police Department landed on the figure after more than two dozen cops spent weeks investigating the bogus story, logging 1,836 overtime hours in the process, a July 2019 legal filing said.
The city of Chicago said in a lawsuit that it was left with a $130,106.15 overtime tab after dozens of cops spent weeks investigating Smollett’s bogus claims
The city was faced with a $130,106.15 overtime tab and has since confirmed that it will press ahead with its lawsuit against Smollett to reclaim the cash.
Their chances of a win or settlement are now all but guaranteed in the wake of the star’s conviction.
A lawsuit filed against Smollett’s legal team by the Nigeran brothers Smollett hired to attack him also stands.
They claim in a defamation lawsuit against Smollett’s lawyers Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian that they were maliciously portrayed as liars in the public.
Among the suggestions the lawyers made was that the brothers, who Smollett knew because he had enlisted them for personal training, might have been wearing white face when they attacked him on January 29.’
The brothers’ lawsuit said Glandian also inferred that Abel engaged in a sexual relationship with Smollett, and noted that homosexuality is illegal in the brothers’ home country.
‘Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria, which can result in 14 years of imprisonment,’ the lawsuit said. ‘If the accused is married, the punishment is death by stoning.
‘Ms. Glandian’s globally broadcasted statements that Bola Osundairo is homosexual endangers him and the lives of his Nigerian family.’
A federal judge stayed their lawsuit until the criminal proceedings are completed for Smollett, who has not yet been sentenced.