Special prosecutors opposed to appointment of Jussie Smollett’s new lead defense attorney
Special prosecutor Dan Webb told Judge James Linn he learned that attorney Nenye Uche may have had contact with two key witnesses in the state’s case against the actor — Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo.
Special prosecutors Tuesday said they were opposed to Jussie Smollett’s choice for a new lead defense attorney, further complicating and slowing down a Cook County judge’s attempts to move the former “Empire” actor’s criminal case to trial.
Nenye Uche told the Chicago Sun-Times last week he filed paperwork in February to join Smollett’s defense team and work as the lead attorney.
Uche, a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney now in private practice, said his experience as a prosecutor would help him fight the charges against Smollett, who is accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack against himself and lying to police about it.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb told Judge James Linn he learned that Uche may have had contact with two key witnesses in the state’s case against Smollett — Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — two brothers who said Smollett asked them for their help in the ruse.
The Osundairo brothers’ lawyer, Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, said her clients had filed sworn affidavits that they had previously discussed the case with Uche.
Uche denied talking to the brothers, but said he had conversations with their mother, who had reached out to him numerous times asking him to represent her sons.
Uche said he had told her that he couldn’t represent the pair because they had already hired Rodriguez as their attorney.
Linn said an evidentiary hearing may be needed to determine whether Uche received information that would disqualify him from representing Smollett.
Special prosecutors argued that if Uche discussed the case with the brothers, it would be a conflict of interest for him to cross examine them at trial.
Linn made plans to meet with Rodriguez in his chambers later this week to learn more about the brothers’ claims and told special prosecutors and defense attorneys to submit their suggestions on how an evidentiary hearing would be handled, including which witnesses would be called and whether it would take place in open court or behind closed doors.
Linn said his preference is to hold the hearing in open court and said the Osundairo brothers could be called to testify. The judge also noted that Smollett — who has regularly appeared for the live-streamed hearings from New York — would be required to be physically present at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.