Jussie Smollett will face a Chicago trial jury starting in late November, after a judge denied his latest motion to dismiss disorderly conduct charges arising from an alleged hoax hate crime he reported in 2019.
During a mostly behind-closed-doors virtual hearing in Chicago Friday, Judge James Linn allowed one of the newest members of Smollett’s sprawling team of defense lawyers, Nenye Uche, to plead for dismissal again.
Among his most passionate arguments, Uche said Smollett had been offered a non-prosecution deal by previous prosecutors in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and that Smollett had kept his side of the bargain, having already performed community service and given up a $10,000 bond under the deal.
To be “hauled back into court again” amounted to a violation of his due process rights, Uche argued.
“It’s as clear as day – this case should be dismissed because of an immunity agreement,” Uche said. “A deal is a deal. That’s ancient principle.”
Uche said the state should not be rewarded for “duping people” with promises not kept.
Sean Wieber, an attorney with the special prosecutor’s office, said Uche’s argument could be “summarily dismissed.”
“We have already dealt with this before,” he said. “Nothing we’ve heard today changes one iota (of the case). This can be comfortably denied.”
Judge Linn agreed. He said he had read Uche’s brief and concluded he had already dealt with previous motions to dismiss by earlier attorneys citing similar arguments to Uche’s.
“I’m denying the motion to dismiss,” he said.
Smollett’s in-person trial is set to begin Nov. 29 in Linn’s courtroom, which will be open to the public and press but closed to media cameras.
Smollett, 39, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The former “Empire” star is accused of lying to police and filing a false report about being the victim of a racist, anti-gay assault in January 2019 in downtown Chicago, where “Empire” was filmed.
Also, he is still fighting a civil lawsuit from the city of Chicago, which claims he owes the city more than $130,000 to cover police overtime costs incurred while they investigated his case.
Police initially treated Smollett as a victim, then became suspicious it was a hoax and arrested him.
A few weeks later, the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who had recused herself after a conversation with a member of Smollett’s family, dropped the initial charges against Smollett, setting off a tsunami of outrage by police, politicians and the public.
Eventually a special prosecutor, former federal prosecutor Dan Webb, was appointed to look into whether Smollett should be recharged and whether Foxx or her prosecutors had acted improperly. He concluded Foxx and her office did nothing criminal but did abuse their discretion and made false statements about the case.
Webb revived the charges against Smollett, leading to the trial to take place nearly three years later.