Jussie Smollett trial: Why the former Empire actor is in court over an assault claim

Jussie Smollett's trial begins this week in Chicago in a case likely to center on the credibility of two brothers.

The former Empire actor maintains that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in downtown Chicago in January 2019.

The brothers, however, who worked with him on the television show, say he paid them $ 3,500 (£ 2,630) to pose as his attackers.

What does Smollett say happened?

Smollett told police he was walking home early on January 29 last year when two masked men approached him, insulted him racist and homophobic, beat him and tied a rope around his neck before fleeing.

He said his attackers, at least one of whom said he was white, told him he was in "Maga's country," a reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." .

Smollett continues to insist that the attack was real and was not a publicity hoax or an attempt to earn a raise.

What is the case against Smollett?

Smollett is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with disorderly conduct.

It is a class 4 felony, which means that it is a crime that carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.

However, experts have said that it is more likely that if Smollett is convicted, he will be placed on probation and may be ordered to perform community service.

His comments could support Smollett's claim that his attackers placed a makeshift rope around his neck.

If she testifies that the man was white, she would support Smollett's statements, widely ridiculed because the brothers, who come from Nigeria, are black, that she saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of her masked attackers.

One of the defense attorneys, Tina Glandian, suggested during a March 2019 appearance on NBC's "Today" show that one of the brothers may have worn white makeup around his eyes to make Smollett believe he was white.

To address the jury's skepticism, Glandian could ask the brothers about a video she talked about on the show that she said shows one of them with a white face reciting a monologue of the Joker character from a movie.

What about the money?

The $ 3,500 check could be key.

While the brothers say that was their fee for carrying out the bogus attack, Smollett has offered a different and much more innocent explanation: that he wrote the check to pay one of them to work as his personal trainer.

"I would assume the defense will focus on that," said Joe Lopez, a prominent defense attorney who was not involved in the case.

"If they sent text messages about training sessions, checks that he (Smollett) wrote them for training, photographs, the defense would use all of that."

How long will the test last?

The test is expected to last about a week.