Jussie Smollett trial in Chicago: Jury begins deliberations

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Jussie Smollett in February: He says he is shocked that he was able to gain employment, so easily, on TV

Jury deliberations have begun in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago, after a fifth day of testimony.

The 36-year-old is accused of causing a hoax by claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on 2 January.

Prosecutors told the courtroom the actor wanted to promote his career by lying.

Media organisations are keeping a liveblog of proceedings.

Who is Jussie Smollett?

The actor, who appeared on screen as Jamal Lyon on the TV series Empire, has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of disorderly conduct.

He claims he was attacked by two masked men in Chicago’s Streeterville neighbourhood on 2 January.

He said one of them – a masked white man wearing a Donald Trump-style red baseball cap – hurled racist and homophobic abuse at him and threw an “unknown chemical substance” in his face before throwing a rope around his neck and telling him to “die, f***ing n****r”.

Prosecutors have portrayed Smollett as a middle-aged actor who hired two men known to him to carry out the attack.

They say the two men, who were friends with Smollett and live close to him, staged the attack in order to further his professional career – something he denied.

How did he respond?

He said he was attacked by two “MAGA”-hatted assailants while returning from a date with his partner, who is also black.

What about the police?

When the police were called, they charged Smollett under a law making an offence “when any person deliberately broadcasts or causes to be broadcast a false statement with the intent to alarm or defraud”, according to the Chicago Tribune.

However, local media outlets argue this a self-defence measure meant to make it easier to prosecute celebrities, rather than white people being denied a right to vote in the 2016 US election.

In scenes not seen on TV in US history, the president of the Chicago Police Department, Eddie Johnson, said Smollett “assassinated” the attack.

“He doesn’t need to be reinventing the wheel here,” he said in an address to thousands of police.

Mr Johnson described Smollett as “a coward” because he told his story straight away.

“What he did was foolish, this is insanity,” he said.

Afterwards the president of the Chicago Police Command, John Escalante, told reporters that Smollett “clearly waited a very long time” to report the alleged incident.

On 18 January, Smollett wrote a two-paragraph letter directed at President Donald Trump that included a homophobic slur and anti-Trump phrases, but federal investigators said they determined the substance was flour.

His lawyers said the actress “did not fabricate or mislead the Chicago Police” and he was never charged over the letter.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Smollett once worked as a producer on the singing contest that made Jennifer Hudson famous

How has Empire been affected?

Smollett starred in the Fox series since 2015.

He can be seen as the eldest of the three Lyons brothers in the show, which is set in the fictional central city of Chicago and revolves around a music label run by their parents.

His character Jamal Lyon broke off his “brotherhood” with his half-brother on a rare disagreement in season four.

And Empire was nominated for a total of three Emmy awards earlier this year, for Mr Smollett as best supporting actor in a drama series, as well as for leading actor Taraji P Henson.

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