Jussie Smollett’s testimony to a grand jury is ‘a disaster’ for him on the stand, experts say

By Katelyn Smith, CNN

Jussie Smollett’s testimony to Chicago police would make the actor a “disaster” on a witness stand, experts told CNN.

The testimony, given before the grand jury last month, offered a much more detailed look at Smollett’s role in the attack that he told police he was attacked with “no racial or homophobic slurs,” a press release from Chicago police at the time said.

After the hearing, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN that the grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct relating to filing a false police report. The indictment was released Thursday.

Smollett’s defense team reportedly requested the indictment. If convicted on all charges, Smollett could face between two and three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Court documents state that among the charges are that Smollett “knowingly and intentionally made materially false statements” to Chicago police.

Attorney Gloria Schmidt has said that the upcoming trial is “not about a plea bargain, not about a plea of truth,” according to a legal source close to the proceedings. Schmidt’s firm, O’Brien Schmidt, is representing Smollett in the coming trial.

“They are not so much trying to get this behind them as they are trying to set the right frame of reference for the jury,” the source told CNN.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Smollett’s alleged attackers, told CNN on Thursday that Smollett did not recognize his attackers on video and the “indictment will be the difference in establishing how it happens,” according to one defense attorney.

Steve Greenberg, a Los Angeles-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, described Smollett’s testimony before the grand jury as a “step down.”

“Jussie’s testimony was a disaster because he couldn’t recall key details,” Greenberg said. “That’s why the special prosecutor called all the witnesses and that’s what they want to put in a record to get a conviction in open court.”

Greenberg pointed out that prosecutors want the grand jury and jury to be aware of Smollett’s claim he was attacked for his “ability to believably recount things.”

“You have to demonstrate believability. In order to do that you have to provide the jurors with very specific details,” Greenberg told CNN. “That’s what special prosecutors focus on, those specificity details, because that’s where you start to establish believability.”

It’s not unusual for special prosecutors to call witnesses, a spokesman for the State’s Attorney for Cook County told CNN.

“At their discretion they may allow multiple witnesses to be called. Sometimes those witnesses are sometimes described as key witnesses,” spokesman Gordon Johnson said.

The police were first called to the area around the 800 block of E. North Water Street at about 2 a.m. ET on January 29 to investigate a possible hate crime, police said. Police said Smollett hired two men to attack him and that two of them were seen on cellphone video exiting a vehicle as they assaulted Smollett.

The next day Smollett told police that he was attacked by two people who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, wrapped a rope around his neck and put a rope around his neck.

Smollett initially told police that he suffered facial injuries and that the incident lasted about 30 seconds. Smollett also said he had been punched in the face by one of the attackers and had his teeth rattled, according to police reports.

Smollett later told detectives he had been physically unharmed, and that no one had been identified as suspects in the incident, according to the Chicago Police Department.

Smollett has denied that he is a criminal and said he has been cooperating with authorities. He is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing Friday morning.

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