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Illinois

Jury selection in trial of Out actor Jussie Smollett begins

Smollett is facing six counts of disorderly conduct, a class 4 felony which carries a potential sentence of up to three years in prison

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Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett (Blade file screenshot)

CHICAGO – Selection of jurors to hear the case against actor Jussie Smollett commenced Monday in Cook County circuit court as prosecutors and defence attorneys questioned potential jury members over their exposure to the highly publicized case.

The Chicago Tribune reported that as of about 2:30 p.m.(Central), six people — four men and two women — had been selected for the jury. Judge James Linn then questioned 16 more, and attorneys were huddling in sidebar, discussing which of the most recent group to keep.

Smollett is facing six counts of disorderly conduct, a class 4 felony in Illinois which carries a potential sentence of up to three years in prison. Legal experts have told multiple media outlets that the 39-year-old actor will likely be placed on probation.

The case has stretched out over the past three years. The six counts are related to his alleged staging of a racist and homophobic attack hate crime on himself in 2019.

The former “Empire” star was previously indicted by Cook County prosecutors in February 2019 after law enforcement authorities alleged he had conspired with two black friends to stage the attack because he was dissatisfied with his salary from the Fox series and wanted to generate publicity to boost his career. In March, the charges against him were dropped, with little explanation from prosecutors – though at the time, presiding Judge Michael Toomin suggested that he could be charged again.

The second indictment comes from special prosecutor Dan Webb, who was appointed to the case by Toomin after the initial charges were dropped. In a statement, Webb said that Smollett was charged with six felony counts of disorderly conduct, connected to four separate false reports that he gave to police in which he claimed to be a victim of a hate crime “knowing that he was not the victim of a crime.”

The openly gay, black actor was originally charged with disorderly conduct after evidence emerged he had paid two acquaintances $3500 to help him stage an attack he reported to police on January 29, 2019. Smollett claimed he had been walking home when he was approached by two masked men making racist and homophobic insults, who beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing. He also claimed that at least one of his attackers was white, and that they had told him he was in “MAGA country.”

Smollett arrived at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse around 9 a.m. Monday, walking past a phalanx of news cameras with his mother, Janet, sister Jurnee and brothers Jocqui and Jake, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The paper also reported that Judge Linn limited the presence of media in the courtroom during the jury selection process, which the judge said should wind up later today. Linn also said jurors would stay as late as 7 p.m. during the trial, which he added should end this week or early next.

Linn also said he expected he would be able to seat a jury from the pool of 50 prospective jurors despite the international publicity surrounding a case that has been the subject of countless news stories and late-night comedy punchlines.

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Illinois

Illinois Governor & others mourn loss of Black Trans activist Elise Malary

“A tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community passionate about her work- her kindness & infectious smile will be missed”

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Elise Malary (Facebook/Chicago Therapy Collective)

SPRINGFIELD – In a tweet Saturday evening after Evanston Police announced that the body of a woman recovered from Lake Michigan was the missing Black Trans activist Elise Malary, Illinois Governor Jay Robert “J. B.” Pritzker expressed his condolences to her family and friends.

“The loss of Elise Malary is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to all her loved ones, as well as all of Illinois’ transgender community. You deserve to feel safe in your home, and I will continue to do everything in my power to make Illinois welcoming and inclusive for everyone,” the Governor said.

Malary had been missing since March 9 after she sent a text to her sister Fabiana around 9 a.m. – her last known contact. She was later reported missing on March 11.  Evanston police confirmed Saturday the body pulled from Lake Michigan on Thursday has been identified as the missing 31-year-old prominent LGBTQ+ activist.

A board member of the Chicago Therapy Collective, she worked tirelessly for the Chicago area LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.   Malary was also a member of the community advisory group for Equality Illinois, extensively fundraised for various community groups, and worked with the Illinois attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau.

The office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul released a statement:

“Today is a devastating day for the Office of the Attorney General. After hoping for several days that our friend and colleague Elise Malary would be safely reunited with her family, friends and loved ones, we have received confirmation of the unthinkable.

“Elise was a valued member of our Civil Rights Bureau who, as a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community, was passionate about her work. Her kindness and infectious smile will be missed by those who worked with her.

“The Attorney General’s office has lost a member of our family, and as an office, we are heartbroken.

“I extend my deepest condolences to Elise’s family and friends. May Elise’s memory inspire all of us to live authentically and have humanity toward all.”

The state’s Lt. Governor, Juliana Stratton, also expressed her condolences saying; “I met Elise Malary at a meeting doing what she did so well: advocating for equitable access to healthcare and safe work spaces for LGBTQ+ Illinoisans. Her life mattered. And our brief encounter made me a better leader. Peace and love to all who are mourning. Rest well, Elise.”

Malary had a serious political impact especially for her fellow Trans community members. Lyricist, Writer, Humanist and President of Chicago LGBTQ Workers Center, Angelina Nordstrom expressed her grief writing;

“I’ll make this short. Our beloved friend, advocate, & sister Elise is no longer with us. My heart is shattered. While many of you have lost an advocate & a role model, I lost my best friend & my sister in community. Until we meet again, babygirl . . . RIP Elise Lydia.”

Brave Space Alliance, a Black and trans-run Chicago-based center has created a fund to help cover her funeral expenses.

In a statement, the alliance said: “Brave Space Alliance is devastated to learn that missing trans liberation leader, and beloved Chicago trans community member Elise Malary was confirmed dead today by the City of Evanston Police Department. Elise was a pillar of our community, a friend and accomplice to many, and a shining example of Black Trans Excellence.

“Elise’s work to advance the interests of trans people in Andersonville with the Chicago Therapy Collective has touched countless lives, and helped make Chicago a better place for trans people to live, work, and thrive.”

The funeral fund, the group said, “will be working with Elise’s family to ensure that she receives a memorial deserving of her dedication to Black Trans Liberation.”

The City of Evanston Police Department declined comment noting there is an investigation ongoing into Malary’s death.

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Illinois

Missing Black Trans activist’s body recovered from Lake Michigan

Malary has been missing since March 9 after she sent a text to her sister Fabiana around 9 a.m. – her last known contact

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LGBTQ+ activist Elise Malary (Screenshot via WBBM/CBS 2)

EVANSTON, Il. – Evanston police confirmed Saturday the body pulled from Lake Michigan on Thursday has been identified as the missing 31-year-old prominent LGBTQ+ activist Elise Malary.

WBBM/CBS 2 News Chicago reported that Thursday at around 4:30 p.m. Evanston Police and Fire Departments responded to Garden Park in the 500 block of Sheridan Square for a report of a woman found by the rocks.  

Malary, a Black Trans woman, has been missing since March 9 after she sent a text to her sister Fabiana around 9 a.m. – her last known contact. She was later reported missing on March 11.

“She’s never done anything like this before,” said Fabiana. “So that’s why it’s been just so alarming for us.” She told CBS2 that when maintenance workers went to Elise’s apartment, they found the front and back doors unlocked, but there were no signs of anything missing. 

Elise’s blue 2008 Honda Accord was missing but was found late Tuesday two blocks from her residence. Police were checking nearby cameras to see who drove Elise Malary’s car to the parking lot. Her family received word that her vehicle was left there.

Elise Malary is described as an “advocate” who has dedicated her life to “lifting up” the local LGBTQ+ community as a Black trans woman.

The Evanston Police Department is investigating.

Body pulled from Lake Michigan identified as missing Evanston activist Elise Malary:

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Illinois

Illinois LGBTQ+ community rallies after brutal hate crime

“It’s very strange for something like this to happen in Decatur now”

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Ethan Dickerson booking photo via CBS News affiliate WCIA 3

DECATUR, Il. – A rally by dozens of members of Decatur’s LGBTQ+ community took place Sunday in the wake of a brutal and vicious attack that sent an Out 60-year-old man to hospital last week.

Decatur Police announced last Thursday that they had taken 19-year-old Ethan Dickerson into custody charging him with attempted first-degree murder, home invasion, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery. Dickerson broke into a 60-year-old neighbor’s house, tying him up and beating him with a pipe wrench because he is gay.

CBS News affiliate WCIA 3 reported that the victim was taken to an area hospital where he received multiple stitches. Dickerson appeared in court Friday morning for a bond hearing. His bond was set at $1 million.

The rally on Sunday was organized to show support for the victim. According to WCIA, event organizer August Francis said, “It’s very strange for something like this to happen in Decatur now.”

“It’s something that was a lot more prevalent and a lot more of an issue, obviously, back when, you know, this was more prevalent,” Francis added, “but now, this is the first we’ve in a very long time.”

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