Following a year’s long break from in-person court appearances due to the outbreak of COVID-19, former Empire star Jussie Smollett has finally returned to the public eye, recently stepping foot in court for the first time since the start of the pandemic to attend a hearing regarding his attorney’s alleged conflict of interest.

Source: Chicago Police Department

As first reported by The Chicago Tribune, Smollet’s July 14th hearing concerned a potential conflict of interest presented by his attorney, Nenye Uche, which could warrant the latter’s dismissal from the case.

According to prosecutors serving on behalf of the City of Chicago who spoke with the Osundairo brothers, the two men who claim that the actor paid them money to help stage the alleged hate crime ‘hoax’ at the center of the lawsuit and are currently serving as key witnesses against the actor, Uche offered them his legal services immediately prior to his signing on to represent Smollett.

Not only that, but they further assert that Uche spoke with the two about details important to the case, including whether the two should turn over a check allegedly used by Smollett to pay the brothers and whether they should have insisted upon immunity before speaking with authorities. 

Source: Empire Season 2 Episode 2 “Without a Country” (2015), Fox

If true, such an action would stand in violation the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically their rulings on “Personal Interest Conflicts,” which explicitly prohibits lawyers from having “discussions concerning possible employment with an opponent of the lawyer’s client, or with a law firm representing the opponent, such discussions could materially limit the lawyer’s representation of the client.” 

However, Uche has repeatedly denied that he ever spoke, in any capacity, with either Abimbola or Olabinjo Osundairo.

Source: Empire Season 5 Episode 16 “Never Doubt I Love” (2019), Fox

Smollett was charged in February 2020 on six separate counts of making false reports to the Chicago Police Department. Those charges were made after Smollett’s now infamous allegation that he was verbally and physically assaulted in the middle of the night by two men wearing ‘Make American Great Again’ hats.

The lawsuit against Smollett, filed by the City of Chicago on behalf of the Chicago Police Department, is currently seeking a restitution of the $136,105.16 USD spent by city detectives during their investigation of the supposed hate crime committed against him, an event which they believe to have been a complete fabrication. 

Source: ABC News “Jussie Smollett FULL Interview on alleged attack | ABC News Exclusive” (2019), ABC News

As of writing, no further details regarding the hearing, which the public was barred from attending, have been made openly available. 

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