Disgraced actor Jussie Smollett’s fanciful take about being the victim of a hate crime hoax included a number of questionable details but for the one black juror on the panel that found him guilty of lying to the Chicago Police Department police about the staged the noose stood out.
Insisting on the stand there was “no hoax,” Smollett stuck to his story in the trial culminating almost three years of drama, claiming that on January 29, 2019, two people he described as white men wearing MAGA hats beat him in downtown Chicago during a post-midnight run to Subway, shouting racial and homophobic slurs, pouring an unknown chemical substance, possibly bleach, on him and tied a noose around his neck. His alleged attackers supposedly yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
Andre Hope, the lone black juror, said he couldn’t get past the fact that Smollett did not quickly take the noose from around his neck and keep it off, if the despicable act actually took place.
As far-reaching as the claim was on the surface for many, that stood out to Hope, who told WLS-TV: “As an African American person, I’m not putting that noose back on at all.”
In the trial, the actor testified that after the attack he returned home and put the rope back around his neck so police could see it when they showed up to take a report. Smollett told the jury “he would’ve never called the police” because as a “black man in America, I don’t trust police,” but his manager did call CPD.
Former Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson, who is black and was in office when the hoax was perpetrated, had a very similar opinion.
“I was concerned because I don’t think there’s many black people in America with a noose around their neck and wouldn’t immediately take it off,” Johnson said in an interview after the verdict.
All of which calls to mind a comment from comedian Dave Chappelle during a stand up bit on Smollett.
“For some reason, African Americans, we were oddly quiet,” he said of Smollett’s claim. “We were so quiet about it that the gay community started accusing the African American community of being homophobic for not supporting him. What they didn’t understand is that we were supporting him with our silence… because we understood that this n—- was clearly lying.”
For Hope, who is 63 and has two sons around Smollett’s age, there was plenty about the case that just didn’t make sense.
“I still have not figured out a motive for why he did, why this had to even happen,” he told WLS-TV. “He was a star.”
He said he did not know much about Smollett or his claims before the trial and had never seen “Empire,” and was surprised that he was selected to sit on the jury.
“I was shocked. I was completely shocked that I was even picked,” he said. “At that point, I took it very seriously.”
As for Smollett’s claim that the Osundairo brothers attacked him for real, Hope didn’t buy that either.
“Two o’clock in the morning. Cold outside. When you just use your common sense as what’s there, yeah it just, it didn’t add up,” he said.
According to Hope, the jury never argued and was never deadlocked. While disappointed that he was the only black person selected, he was complimentary of the other jurors and said they took care to be thorough during the nine and a half hours of deliberation.
“Because how can we say that this is a jury of your peers when there’s only one African American?” he explained. “And there were plenty there, so you could have gotten two, three four. African Americans can handle the truth, too. And we can give an impartial judgement on a case.”
Suggesting Smollett has suffered enough loss, Hope said he doesn’t think the actor deserves prison time and hope he gets a second chance in Hollywood.
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