CHICAGO - A judge on Monday granted lawyers for Jussie Smollett more time to prepare arguments on several issues, including whether they can introduce a key witness’s previous conviction for battery.
Cook County Judge James Linn scheduled the next hearing in the case for Aug. 26.
But Linn also urged lawyers for Smollett and the special prosecutor’s office to get prepared for a trial or other resolution to the charges that the actor staged a racist and homophobic attack in January 2019.
One of Smollett’s attorneys said after the hearing that the legal team has evidence to prove Smollett is innocent of the charges that he lied to police about an attack prosecutors allege he staged himself.
"Like many people in Chicago, when I first heard of the Smollett case … I was absolutely certain that he was guilty based on the media coverage," attorney Nenye Uche told reporters. "But I can say now categorically, looking at the evidence, hundreds of pages so far, and there are many, many more to look at, so far it’s obvious to us he’s absolutely innocent."
Uche and the other attorneys would not elaborate about the evidence, saying that it would be disclosed in court.
Uche was at the center of a legal dispute that slowed progress in the case, as Special Prosecutor Dan Webb argued that Uche had a conflict of interest because he had spoken to the two men who Smollett allegedly hired to help him carry out the attack.
But on Friday, Linn ordered that Uche could remain on the case but prohibited him from questioning the two brothers, Abinbola and Olabinjo Osudairo, should the case go to trial.
Uche told the judge on Monday that he needed more time to prepare arguments on several pre-trial motions, including the defense’s hope to introduce evidence about the older brother’s prior conviction.
Smollett, who was starring in the television show "Empire" at the time of the incident, has been charged with felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing false police reports about what happened. He has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty.
Smollett attended Monday’s virtual hearing and told the judge he was in New York City.