Jussie Smollett, former Empire actor and alleged orchestrator of a hoax hate crime, proclaimed his innocence as he returned to a Cook County courtroom Wednesday for the first time in more than a year.
Entering the Cook County Courthouse, Smollett told Fox News that he was innocent and labeled the ongoing trial against him a “dog and pony show.”
Smollett was in court for a private hearing to determine whether one of his attorneys will be barred from future proceedings over an alleged conflict of interest. The proceedings are part of the run-up to a trial to determine whether Smollett is responsible for orchestrating a hoax hate crime against himself in early 2019.
Judge James Linn will hear testimony Wednesday to determine whether a prospective attorney for Smollett, Nenye Uche, will be barred from working on the case due to a conflict of interest, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The prosecution is expected to argue that Uche should be barred from representing Smollett because he held discussions with two of Smollett’s alleged accomplices early on in the case. Uche allegedly considered representing the Osundairo brothers, the two men who claim to have been paid by Smollett to perpetrate the hoax assault and are now key witnesses for the prosecution. Uche is alleged to have discussed the case in depth before eventually signing on to represent Smollett.
Uche denies ever having communicated with the Osundairos brothers. Due to the discrepancy of fact between the prosecution and defense, Judge Linn deemed it necessary to ascertain the truth of the matter.
Smollett originally claimed that he was set upon at 2 a.m. the morning of January 29, 2019, by two masked men, who poured an “unknown” substance on him and tied a rope around his neck. According to Smollett, the assailants then shouted, “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.