Attorneys for Jussie Smollett have accused the trial judge of attempting to “lunge” at members of the defense team and ‘snarling’ during testimony, requesting a mistrial in the increasingly bizarre case.
A hectic exchange ensued between defense lawyer Tamara Walker and Judge James Linn on Thursday after the attorney questioned a top prosecution witness, Olabinjo Osundairo, who claims he was paid by Smollett to “fake beat him up” in order to fabricate a ‘hate crime’ against the actor. When Walker shifted the focus to allegedly homophobic tweets posted by Osundairo, Linn deemed the line of questioning “collateral” to the case, apparently setting off the attorney.
Briefly ushering the jury out of the courtroom for a sidebar, Walker called for a mistrial, arguing that Osundairo’s purported bigotry was central to Smollett’s defense and that Linn potentially misled jurors in deeming it insignificant. She also told the judge “You did physically lunge at me,” while fellow defense lawyer Heather Widell stated that she “noticed snarls” from Linn “multiple times” throughout Thursday’s testimony.
A Chicago Tribune reporter covering the trial live, Megan Crepeau, noted that Linn appeared “furious” following the allegations, which he denied entirely. He similarly shut down the mistrial request, though did later tell jurors to disregard his use of terms like “focus” and “collateral,” saying “it’s just me talking to lawyers.”
The Smollett trial has had a number of strange moments since kicking off earlier this week, including earlier on Thursday when another defense lawyer, Shay Allen, claimed that the ‘Empire’ star was in a sexual relationship with Olabinjo Osundairo’s brother, Abimbola – who also testified that Smollett paid him to set up a fake crime. Abimbola repeatedly denied the charge, saying the two were merely friends despite Allen’s insistence otherwise.
While the defense has argued that Smollett is the “real victim” in the case and that the Osundairo brothers had genuine ill intent toward him, prosecutors say there is strong evidence that the ‘hate crime’ was staged. Smollett is alleged to have directed the brothers to pose as Donald Trump supporters and set up a false attack, even affixing a rope to his neck to give the appearance of an attempted lynching.
The ‘Empire’ actor was charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct after police in Chicago spent thousands of man hours investigating the case, which could result in a three-year prison sentence.