How Jussie Smollett's 'MAGA attack' snowballed into a boiling pot of racism and politics

How Jussie Smollett's 'MAGA attack' snowballed into a boiling pot of racism and politics
Jussie Smollett's trial on disorderly conduct charges begins on November 29 (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Jussie Smollett's trial on new disorderly conduct charges begins on Monday, November 29, where jurors will have to answer one simple question — did Smollett stage a hate crime on himself? Back in 2019, in downtown Chicago, Smollett, a Black and openly gay actor, told Chicago police that he was the victim of a hate crime.

The Jussie Smollett trial is expected to last at least a week. It is also going to be the highest-profile event since the Leighton Criminal Court Building was virtually shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic over a year and a half ago. There will be no livestream of the proceedings.


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Smollett had claimed that he was walking home from a Subway restaurant when he was attacked by two men wearing ski masks. The men, he claimed, hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, and even put a noose around his neck. He alleged that one of the attackers appeared to be White. While being assaulted, he allegedly heard one assailant yell, “This is MAGA country" — a reference to then-President Donald Trump’s slogan.

Smollett's manager called the police and cops arrived to find that the noose was still hanging around his neck. “I just wanted y’all to see it,” Smollett had told them. However, two brothers — Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — later informed police that Smollett had faked the attack. They said that Smollett made them stage the assault in an attempt to grab the attention of his 'Empire' (musical drama) bosses. Smollett was ultimately charged with giving a false report to the police.

In a shocking move later, Cook County prosecutors dropped the charges after Smollett's indictment. Following a mass outcry after this incident, a special prosecutor, Dan Webb, was appointed. Just before the pandemic hit, Webb and his team brought a new indictment against Smollett in February 2020. Finally, on November 29, the evidence against Smollett will be publicly aired in court.

The case is expected to be largely dependant on the credibility of the Osundairo brothers, as they are the key witnesses of the prosecution. They are expected to reveal in detail how they were recruited by Smollett and persuaded to stage the attack. The defense will likely argue that the brothers indeed attacked Smollett and then went on to frame him to save themselves from being criminally charged. 

Defense attorney Tina Glandian said in court earlier this year that the available evidence supports both theories. There is no video that has captured the assault, but even if it were available, it would not be of much help because both the sides agree that the brothers attacked Smollett. The only question is whether the attack was real, or carried out at Smollett's bidding.

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