CHICAGO (CBS) — Cameras will be allowed in the courtroom when a trial judge is assigned to “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s case on disorderly conduct charges, but ultimately it will be up to the trial judge to decide on the rules for media coverage of future hearings.
Cook County Criminal Court Presiding Judge LeRoy Martin ruled he will allow cameras in the courtroom on Thursday, when a trial judge will be selected at random to hear Smollett’s case. Smollett will be arraigned later the same day, and that trial judge will have final say over whether cameras will be allowed in court for further proceedings.
Smollett was not required to be in court for Tuesday’s hearing, but attended along with his two brothers and his sister-in-law.
His legal team said they welcome cameras in court, as a counter to “misinformation” they claim has been leaked to the media since he reported being attacked in Streeterville in January. Police and prosecutors have said that attack was a hoax, but Smollett’s attorneys said they want the public to see the evidence, or lack thereof, in the case.
“We look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out,” Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian said after the hearing.
Smollett was indicted Friday on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to two separate police officers about the incident, which happened on Jan. 29, not far from the actor’s home in Streeterville. Each count covers various alleged acts that Smollett falsely described to the officers–including that he was hit by two men, that they yelled racial and homophobic slurs and poured a chemical on him.
His arraignment has been scheduled for Thursday. Once a trial judge is assigned, that judge could modify or reverse any ruling on media coverage of Smollett’s case.
On Monday, the attorney for the two brothers involved in the allegedly orchestrated attack against Smollett said her clients feel the actor betrayed them.
“This entire thing started because they put their trust in the wrong person,” attorney Gloria Schmidt said in an interview on CBSN.
Schmidt represents Ola and Abel Osundairo, who allegedly told Chicago police that Smollett paid them $3,500 by check to stage a hate crime against him in January, because he was upset with his salary on “Empire.”
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Police said, in reality, Smollett had paid the Osundairo brothers to stage the attack.
“They feel tremendously regretful for their role in this, and their involvement in the situation,” Schmidt said. “The impact that this has had – not only on them, but on minority populations – that weighs very heavily on them.”
Schmidt said the Osundairo brothers were friends with Smollett and worked out with him. At least one of the brothers had appeared as an extra on “Empire,” and Schmidt said they hoped Smollett could help their careers, but they now feel he betrayed them.
“They felt that their friend, someone who had helped them getting some connections, would not put them in a situation where they’re now being labeled as someone who would commit a hate crime,” she said. “I can tell you, with confidence, they did not commit a hate crime. They also did not know that their loyalty to him would be betrayed.”
Smollett’s attorney, Mark Geragos, called the new charges overkill in a CNN interview Friday.
“What’s happening here is a media gang bang of this guy of unprecedented proportions,” he said. “I have never seen a media pendulum swing more quickly and more viciously and rob someone of their presumption of innocence like this case is.”
Geragos also questioned why the Osundairo brothers were not indicted alongside Smollett.
“I haven’t seen one piece of evidence, and they don’t have one piece of evidence that they’ve turned over that links Jussie to this. What they do have is a whale of a case. If you believe what the police chief is saying, they’ve got a great case against the two brothers,” Geragos said. “What do they have that corroborates this story? These are the two people that did it. What do they have besides their word that says he was in on this?”