The presiding judge of Cook County’s criminal division decided Tuesday to allow cameras in the courtroom at “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s next appearance Thursday on criminal charges he faces.
But Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. said he will let whomever is appointed Thursday to preside over the high-profile case to ultimately decide if cameras will be allowed in the courtroom to capture the proceedings beyond Thursday.
Smollett, who faces charges he staged a phony attack on himself and told police he was the victim of a hate crime, appeared in court Tuesday for the hearing.
Media organizations want video and still cameras to record the court proceedings.
Smollett’s attorney, Tina Glandian, took the somewhat unusual position of favoring cameras in the courtroom, saying the defense wants the public to see what happens in court.
“In light of the substantial amount of misinformation in the case, the defense actually welcomes cameras in the courtroom,” she said.
Last week a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct. The 36-year-old actor, who is free on $100,000 bond, has vehemently denied lying to police or faking the attack.
Smollett is due back at the Leighton Criminal Court Building again Thursday when he is scheduled to be arraigned on the 16 counts and have a judge assigned to preside over his case. That judge could potentially reverse or modify any decision made Tuesday about cameras in the courtroom.
The actor, who is African-American and openly gay, has said he was walking from a Subway sandwich shop to his apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street about 2 a.m. Jan. 29 when two men walked up, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him and wrapped a noose around his neck.
Smollett said they also yelled, “This is MAGA country,” in a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again.”
Police initially treated the incident as a hate crime, but their focus turned to Smollett after two brothers who were alleged to have been his attackers told police that Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with a promise of another $500 later.
Police pieced together much of their evidence by reviewing footage from about 55 police and private surveillance cameras showing the brothers’ movements before and after the attack.
The shift in the investigation came amid intense press coverage and often bitter public debate and stinging skepticism on social media.
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