Jussie Smollett’s defense team maintained the former “Empire” actor’s innocence Monday following a brief hearing on the infamous disorderly conduct case.
Lawyer Nenye Uche said he, like many others, thought Smollett was guilty of staging a racist and homophobic attack against himself in 2019.
But after reviewing evidence and hundreds of pages of documents, he told reporters he changed his mind.
“It is absolutely clear to us that Mr. Smollett is absolutely categorically innocent,” Uche said surrounded by other members of Smollett’s defense team on the steps of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Just last week, Cook County Judge James Linn ruled that Uche could defend Smollett but could not cross examine brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo if the case goes to trial.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb had argued that Uche should not represent the actor because he had spoken with the Osundairos before.
The brothers — who said they were hired by Smollett to stage the alleged phony attack — said they had previous discussions with Uche about representing them.
Smollett wasn’t at the courthouse Monday but appeared online for a brief pre-trial hearing.
Two hours after the hearing, Smollett’s defense team criticized public officials for their “character assassination” of the actor and the “tremendous waste of resources” being spent on the criminal case.
“How much of the taxpayers’ money has been spent on the lowest level, felony charge, which is a class for disorderly conduct?” Uche asked. “This is not a murder case. This is not an armed robbery case, this is not a bank robbery case, This is a class four felony disorderly conduct. To me, [this] might as well be a misdemeanor charge, and we’ve spent so much time doing this case when they’re more serious issues in Chicago.”
The City of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Smollett, claiming the actor owes the city more than $130,000 to cover police overtime costs incurred while they investigated his alleged lies about being attacked.
Uche said the defense team may file a motion to dismiss the case on merit before it goes to trial.
Smollett’s lead attorney also touched on State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office’s initial decision to drop charges against the actor in 2019.
Webb, who indicted Smollett again in early 2020, was appointed to investigate Foxx’s office’s handling of the case.
“Is it right that a non-elected official, second guesses our elected state’s attorney and charges Mr. Smollet, with a case that was already dismissed?” Uche said, apparently pointing to Webb. “That’s a breach of contract in our law, in our system of justice, in our case law in Illinois.
While Webb did not find evidence to support criminal charges against any prosecutors, including Foxx, he reported uncovering “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures.”
Webb’s report remains under seal and has not been made public.
Smollett’s case is back in court on Aug. 26.