The trial against the former “Empire” actor began in Chicago as Smollett was brought in for jury selection. Smollett has been accused of lying to the police regarding an alleged racist and homophobic assault against him in January 2019. The crime carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to the crime and insisted that he was the victim of an assault by violent Donald Trump supporters. However, investigators later uncovered that Nigerian siblings Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who worked with Smollett on “Empire,” were the perpetrators. The Osundairo brothers claim that Smollett paid them $ 3,500 to stage the attack.
Smollett, meanwhile, claimed that the $ 3,500 was their pay for acting as his personal trainers.
In the immediate aftermath of Smollett’s alleged assault, numerous celebrities, politicians, and reporters came out in support of the openly gay and Black actor.
One of the more notable examples of high-profile support came from “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts. Roberts sat down with Smollett for his first interview following the alleged assault. Despite the attack still being investigated at the time, Roberts neglected to refer to the attack as “alleged” and repeatedly defended the credibility of his story.
“That’s the first time he’s given a detailed account, an account that Chicago police have said that’s been consistent. He hasn’t changed his story and they also said it’s credible. The police have said that and also that he’s been very cooperative,” Roberts said at the time.
During the interview, Smollett continued to claim that he was attacked by White Trump supporters who shouted “This is MAGA country” at him while hurling racial slurs in the early hours of the morning. He also added that he believed this attack was due to his open criticism against President Trump.
“I come really really hard against 45. I come really really hard against his administration. I don’t hold my tongue,” he said, adding, “I can only go off of their words. I mean, who says, f—t Empire this MAGA country n—r’?”
Shortly after the interview aired, police apprehended the Osundairo brothers and announced the information they acquired had “shifted the trajectory of the investigation.”
“I’m a Black gay woman, he’s a Black gay man,” Roberts said. “He’s saying that there’s a hate crime, so if I’m too hard, then my LGBT community is going to say, ‘You don’t believe a brother,’ if I’m too light on him, it’s like, ‘Oh, because you are in the community, you’re giving him a pass.'”
Roberts has yet to comment on the trial.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was a senator at the time, called the alleged attack “attempted modern-day lynching” in a tweet after the news first emerged in 2019. She has yet to comment on the trial and has not deleted the tweet.