The trial of a US actor accused of fabricating a hate crime against himself kicked off Monday in Chicago with jury selection.
Former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett was accused in 2019 of orchestrating a hoax racist attack in the Midwestern city to gain publicity and secure a bigger paycheck.
The 39-year-old pleaded not guilty to accusations that he planned and participated in the alleged assault. He is also accused of making false statements to police.
The trial could end Friday or early next week, Judge James Linn said at the start of the proceedings.
Smollett, who had been one of the main cast members on “Empire,” reported to police in January 2019 that he was attacked in the middle of the night by two masked men while walking near his home in Chicago.
But police eventually said he staged the whole thing.
Smollett, who is gay and African-American, maintained his innocence in the face of a damning public account from authorities of their case against him.
They accused him of sending himself a threatening letter — complete with homophobic and racial slurs — and hiring two acquaintances, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, to stage the attack while invoking Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The case got even weirder when Cook County prosecutors eventually dropped the initial 16 felony counts against him in March 2019.
The city did, however, send a letter to Smollett’s attorneys, asking the actor to pay the $130,000 cost of overtime work related to the police investigation.