Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Courts Building for the start of jury selection in his trial on November 29, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Attorneys for Jussie Smollett, the actor accused of faking a hate crime for attention, requested a mistrial in his blockbuster case Thursday, alleging that the judge lunged at one lawyer and snarled during proceedings. The request was swiftly denied, with Judge James Linn denying that he’d ever lunged at anyone, according to the Associated Press.
“I did nothing of the sort,” Linn said, according to the AP. The weird exchange came as testimony from the prosecution’s two lead witnesses—the brothers Smollett allegedly paid to beat him up, yell slurs, and pour bleach on him in the January 2019 incident—was wrapping up. The prosecution eventually rested Thursday after three days of frequently bizarre testimony. The trial over Smollett’s six disorderly conduct charges is expected to resume Monday. Smollett has pleaded not guilty to the offenses.Smollett’s case, which already had plenty of drama to go around, got a bit more of it during sometimes chaotic testimony Thursday, according to reporters in the courtroom. During cross-examination, for example, defense attorneys for Smollett seemed to volley between accusing the paid-off brothers of being homophobic, while also suggesting one of them, Abimbola Osundairo, was in a sexually tense relationship with Smollett, who is gay.“When did you and Jussie start dating?” Shay Allen asked Osundairo Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“What?” Osundairo said. “We were never dating.”Also that day, jurors saw a text exchange in which Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo called a person “a fruit” and a “gaylord,” according to Tribune reporter Megan Crepeau. Then they saw another message in which he referred to a possibly gay person as a “sicko,” courtesy of Smollett’s defense atttorneys, Crepeau reported. Around that time, Linn tried to get the defense to wrap it up, saying attorneys were getting into something that was “collateral,” according to the Tribune. Then Tamara Walker, an attorney for Smollett, asked for a sidebar conversation, requested a mistrial due to the “collateral” comment while the jurors were out of the room, and alleged that Linn had lunged at her, the Tribune reported. Some time during this exchange, Walker sobbed and paced around a table, apparently upset at the perception that the defense was being blocked from carrying out a crucial line of questioning, CNN reported. Another defense attorney, Heather Widell, chimed in for the record that they’d “noticed snarls multiple times” during moments in which Linn sustained prosecutors’ objections, the Tribune reported. Linn denied the mistrial request and said he hadn’t made faces or engaged in any sort of lunging.“When you said the word mistrial, and I know you have some pressures here, I'm stunned that you would consider a mistrial,” Linn said, according to CNN. “Ms. Walker, there were objections that had to be sustained and I was trying to get back on point.”