A large gathering of press and supporters had gathered outside the courtroom for the trial as Mr Smollett arrived alongside seven members of his family.
Mr Smollett faces charges of felony disorderly conduct for the supposed fake attack that occurred on 29 January 2019. He was indicted last year on six counts by a grand jury, all of which were connected to alleged lies to law enforcement about the attack.
Mr Smollett has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was initially charged with 16 counts, but they were all dropped by the prosecutor’s office in March 2019.
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the state’s attorney’s office said at the time.
Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx later admitted fault in how her office handled the case and that they could have been more transparent.
Six new charges were announced after a special prosecutor presented the case to a grand jury.
An attorney for Mr Smollett, Tina Glandian, responded to the six-count indictment, saying that that the earlier charges were dismissed “because they were not supported by the evidence” and argued that the new charges were “clearly all about politics – not justice”.
Mr Smollett initially claimed that two white men had attacked him at 2am on a cold night, shouting racist and homophobic slurs at him, and pouring an unidentified liquid over him.
But two men, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo – who are not white – later claimed that the attack had been staged. They said Mr Smollett had paid them to conduct the stunt, prompting Ms Foxx to bring the initial charges. The brothers are expected to testify at the trial.
The trial was delayed by the pandemic but jury selection has now been cleared to start. Mr Smollett could go to prison for three years if he’s convicted on all charges.
Judge James Linn said at a hearing in October that no cameras would be permitted in the courtroom.
Around a month after the attack, the Chicago Police Superintendent at the time, Eddie Johnson, said Mr Smollett had allegedly paid the brothers $3,500 to take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”.
A member of Mr Smollett’s legal team, Patricia Brown, said that the brothers were her client’s trainers and that he only paid them for “nutrition and training”.
In his first statement following the supposed attack, Mr Smollett said he had “been 100 per cent factual and consistent on every level”.
In late February 2019, Mr Johnson said that “as far as we can tell, the scratching and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted”.
Authorities cited phone records, text messages, and surveillance footage as they claimed that Mr Smollett had spoken to the brothers about an hour before the attack and around an hour after.
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