Jussie Smollett is cheered on at court as he arrives to face hoax attack charges as it’s revealed his family contacted Michelle Obama’s former aide to get her to persuade Chicago prosecutors to hand case over to FBI
- Smollett, 36, was flanked by body guards and some members of his family
- He wore sunglasses as he entered the court but said nothing to his fans
- Some chanted ‘Justice for Jussie’ as he strode into the courthouse in silence
- A new judge was assigned before Smollett made his plea on 16 felony counts
- It has also emerged that in the hours after the attack, his famous family enlisted Tina Tchen to help them try to steer the investigation
- Tchen contacted State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx and asked her to get the Chicago PD to give the investigation to the police
- They were worried about the amount of information that was being leaked to the press within hours of the incident
- Foxx later recused herself over her contact with Tchen and some of Smollett’s relatives who she was texting and promising to keep updated
- The case did not go to the FBI in the end because there was not enough proof Smollett was a hate crime victim as he claimed
Jussie Smollett arrived back at a Chicago courtroom on Thursday morning to face charges of staging a hoax attack on January 29.
The 36-year-old was accompanied by some but not all of his family and said nothing as he strode quickly into the courthouse wearing a pair of sunglasses.
He was searched by security before entering the courtroom where he is expected to enter a plea on 16 counts of disorderly conduct.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of 48 years behind bars.
Smollett, who insists he is innocent, is accused of paying brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo to attack him on January 29. They told police the actor wanted a raise on Empire, the Fox show in which he is one of the central characters.
On Thursday morning, trial judge Steven Gregory Watkins was assigned to the case.
Jussie Smollett arrives in court in Chicago on Thursday to enter a plea on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct. He put his hand on his heart as he walked past protesters shouting ‘Justice for Jussie!’
Smollett’s court appearance coincided with the revelation that his family contacted former Michelle Obama aide Tina Tchen to get in touch with State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx the day after the attack to tell her they had ‘concerns’ with how the police were handling it.
They were worried, they said, about the amount of information that was being leaked to the media from the start of the investigation.
Tchen persuaded her to try to pawn the case off to the FBI, according to text messages obtained by USA Today.
Foxx said she was ‘trying’ and had spoken to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnston to try to ‘convince’ him to let the FBI take the lead on the investigation.
She also exchanged text with one of Smollett’s relatives who replied: ‘Omg this would be a huge victory,’ when Foxx mentioned her efforts.
Ultimately, the case did not move on to the FBI because there was not enough evidence that Smollett had been the victim of a hate crime as he claimed.
Foxx recused herself from the case after Smollett was arrested, saying at the time that her contact with a family member of his was a conflict of interest in the case.
Smollett was joined by some of his siblings but not all of them. He wore sunglasses and a suit with a coat
The actor was searched as he entered the courtroom on Thursday to enter a plea
The Smollett family enlisted the help of former Obama adviser Tina Tchen (seen above with the couple in the White House) to try to get the investigation taken over by the FBI
Tchen, who worked with the Obamas when they were in the White House, has not publicly commented on the case.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told the Smollett family she was ‘trying’ to convince the Chicago PD to let the FBI take over the case but it never happened. She recused herself later over the conflict of interest
Smollett did not initially want to involve the police on the night of the attack. It was his friend, 60-year-old Frank Gatson, who insisted they call 911 after he arrived back at his apartment with a rope around his neck and bleach on his clothes, claiming to have been assaulted by two men who shouted: ‘This is MAGA country!’ as they beat him.
It was 2am and he had gone out to get a salad from Subway.
In the weeks that followed, Chicago PD sources gradually leaked information about the case to local media about how Smollett was refusing to hand over his phone records.
As they combed through surveillance footage from the night of the attack, they honed in on the Osundairo brothers and tracked their ride share and taxi movements.
They then arrested the pair on February 20 as they arrived back in Chicago from Nigeria.
In the 47th hour of their 48 hour hold, the brothers confessed to the plot.
At around the same time, Smollett went on Good Morning America to plead his innocence and condemn the growing skepticism surrounding his case.