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At Jussie Smollett trial,2 brothers at center stage

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They say he paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers.
CHICAGO — Two brothers stand at the center of the case that prosecutors will lay before jurors during the trial of Jussie Smollett this week. The former “Empire” actor contends he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in downtown Chicago on a frigid night in January 2019. The siblings, who worked with him on the TV show, say he paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers. Jury selection began Monday morning and six jurors had been seated in the Chicago courtroom by early afternoon. Judge James Linn, who said he expects the trial to take about one week, was asking potential jurors if they have been the victim of a hate crime, if they have watched “Empire” or TMZ, a program and website about celebrities, or if they belong to any civil rights or pro-police organizations. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom and the proceedings are not being livestreamed, unlike in other recent high-profile trials. Smollett, who arrived at the courthouse with his mother and other family members, is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. A class 4 felony, the crime carries a prison sentence of up to three years but experts have said it is more likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service. Whether Smollett, who is Black and gay, testifies remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, will take the witness stand where they are expected to repeat what they have told police officers and prosecutors: that they carried out the attack at Smollett’s behest. Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing a red hat, ski masks and gloves from a beauty supply shop hours earlier.

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