Who is Jussie Smollett and what did he do?

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Actor-singer Jussie Smollett, who claimed to have been a victim of a hate crime in 2019, is set to face trial on Monday on charges of faking the racist and homophobic attack.

Smollett, 39, is best known for his role in the Fox drama series Empire, in which he played the role of Jamal Lyon for four years from 2015. The role won him several accolades for his portrayal of a gay, Black musician. While he was renewed for a new season of Empire in 2019, he did not appear in any episodes.

His other notable films as an actor include Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant (2017) and Marshall (2017).

He will return to the public eye on Monday as jury selection begins in the case. In 2019, he was charged with felony disorderly conduct after prosecutors said that he lied about an alleged hate crime in downtown Chicago.

Smollett had told the police that on the morning of 29 January 2019, he was walking home when two men who recognised him from Empire started hurling racist and homophobic abuses at him.

The Black actor, who is gay, said the two men then proceeded to hit him and hooked a makeshift noose around his neck and said, “This is MAGA country”. It was a reference to then-president Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”.

The actor also alleged that he had received a racist and homophobic letter on the set of Empire.

The attack drew support for the actor on social media and spurred a political firestorm. While Democrats cited it as another example of racism and bigotry under the Trump administration, Republicans alleged that the attack was an attempt to villainise the former president’s supporters as racist.

In February 2019, Chicago police said Smollett had staged the attack in order to get publicity and a better salary.

The police said that he had sent the letter to himself on the set of Empire and then hired two brothers from Nigeria, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to pretend to attack him for $3,500 (about £2,600). The brothers have sued him for the attack.

Smollett pleaded not guilty to six counts of felony disorderly conduct in February 2020. Disorderly conduct, a class 4 felony, carries a sentence of up to three years.

Trial in the case was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as a controversy around the prosecutor in the case.

Reports alleged that the actor tried to use his influence after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, at the request of former first lady Michelle Obama’s one-time chief of staff, allegedly communicated with a member of Smollett’s family.

Ms Foxx recused herself from the case in February 2019, and her office suddenly dropped the charges the next month. In August 2019, US Attorney Dan Webb was appointed as special prosecutor to investigate why the charges against Smollett were dropped.

The charges were reinstated on 11 February 2020, and the actor pleaded not guilty on 24 February.

The case reduced Smollett to a point of ridicule from fellow Black celebrities, including NBA analyst Charles Barkley and comedian Dave Chappelle. A skit was also made on him on the popular show Saturday Night Live.

Smollett told the BBC in 2020 that it was not his job “to convince people” and that he and his family have continued to receive threats. “The thing that really gets me is the fact that there are black and brown women and men behind bars for things they did not do,” he said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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