Jussie Smollett appeared in person at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Wednesday for a closed-door hearing on whether the former “Empire” actor can be represented by his latest attorney who is accused of having contact with two key witnesses in the high-profile criminal case.
That lawyer, Nenye Uche, was also in court, as were Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — the brothers who told Chicago police that Smollett hired them to stage a phony attack against the actor in 2019.
Cook County James Linn will rule on whether Uche can be part of Smollett’s defense team on Aug. 2.
Smollett hired Uche, a former Cook County prosecutor, as his lead defense attorney earlier this year as he fights filing a false police report charges.
Uche’s involvement was thrown into question in March when Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told Linn that Uche may have had contact with the Osundairos.
If Uche discussed the case with the siblings, it would be a conflict of interest for him to cross examine them at trial, special prosecutors have argued.
At previous hearings, Uche denied that he had ever talked to the brothers. The defense attorney said he had talked with their mother, but said that they didn’t discuss the case.
The brothers, in court filings, claimed Uche first spoke to their mother, Ola, by phone in February 2019 and had consultations with them about the case shortly after.
“A few days afterwards, on or about February 10 and 20, 2019, around the time of the first grand jury proceeding against Mr. Smollett, Mr. Uche held two distinct consultations with the Osundario brothers,” the brothers’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt-Rodriguez, wrote in a motion supporting the special prosecutors’ request to disqualify Uche from representing Smollett.
The Osundario brothers said they believed they could hire Uche as an attorney if they were no longer were represented by Schmidt-Rodriguez.
Schmidt-Rodriguez, who watched Wednesday’s hearing, said she believes Linn would rule in favor of the special prosecutors but declined to answer further questions.
“I think there will be a disqualification,” Schmidt-Rodriguez after the daylong hearing. “I think enough evidence and proof was laid out today to support our position.”
The special prosecutors, Smollett and his attorneys, declined comment Wednesday.
Linn, who has been pushing for the conclusion of the more than two-year-old case, had previously indicated that he was inclined to let Uche represent Smollett, saying the actor had the right to be defended by whomever he chose, unless there was sufficient evidence that a conflict existed.