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Prosecutor: Jussie Smollett reported ‘fake hate crime’

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At Jussie Smollett trial, Osundairo brothers at center stage

By DON BABWIN

CHICAGO (AP) — Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic assault and told police he was the victim after the television studio where he worked didn’t take hate mail he had received seriously, a prosecutor said during opening statements in the ex-“Empire” actor’s trial Monday.

Smollett has maintained he was the victim in the January 2019 attack in downtown Chicago. But special prosecutor Dan Webb said the actor recruited two brothers he worked with to help him carry out the fake attack. He then reported it to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime and spent 3,000 hours on the investigation.

“When he reported the fake hate crime that was a real crime,” Webb said.

Two brothers say Smollett paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers on a frigid night in January 2019.

Webb was named as special prosecutor in the case after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped the original charges filed against Smollett. A new indictment was returned in 2020.

Smollett, who arrived at the courthouse in Chicago Monday with his mother and other family members, is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

Twelve jurors plus three alternate jurors were sworn in late Monday in a trial Judge James Linn said he expects to take about one week. During jury selection, Linn asked potential jurors if they have been the victim of a hate crime, if they have watched “Empire” or TMZ, a program and website about celebrities, or if they belong to any civil rights or pro-police organizations. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom and the proceedings are not being livestreamed, unlike in other recent high-profile trials.

Whether Smollett, who is Black and gay, will testify remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, will take the witness stand where they are expected to repeat what they have told police officers and prosecutors: that they carried out the attack at Smollett’s behest.

Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing a red hat, ski masks and gloves from a beauty supply shop hours earlier.

Smollett’s attorneys have not spelled out how they will confront that evidence. Lead attorney Nenye Uche declined to comment ahead of this week’s proceedings. But there are clues as to how they might during the trial.

Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from an area resident who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Her comments could back up Smollett’s contention that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Further, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements — widely ridiculed because the brothers, who come from Nigeria, are Black — that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.

Given there is so much evidence, including the brothers’ own statements, that they participated in the attack, it is unlikely that Smollett’s attorneys will try to prove they did not take part. That could lead the defense to contend that Smollett was the victim of a very real attack at the hands of the brothers, perhaps with the help of others, who now are only implicating the actor so they won’t be charged.

The $3,500 check could be key, although Smollett says he wrote it to pay one of the brothers to work as his personal trainer.

“I would assume the defense is going to zero in on that,” said Joe Lopez, a prominent defense attorney not involved with the case.

What they will almost certainly do is attack the brothers’ credibility, reminding jurors that they are not facing the same charges as Smollett, despite admitting they took part in the staged attack.

“Everything Smollett is responsible for, they are responsible for,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law and is not involved in the case.

Finally, Smollett’s career could take center stage. Prosecutors could make the same point that then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson made when he announced Smollett’s arrest in 2019: that Smollett thought the attack would win him more fame and a pay raise.

But Lopez said the defense attorneys might ask the jury the same question he asked himself.

“How would that help him with anything?” he asked. “He’s already a star.”

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Associated Press reporter Sara Burnett contributed to this report.

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Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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Full schedule of concerts planned for Tanglewood this summer

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Full schedule of concerts planned for Tanglewood this summer

The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday that its summer home in Tanglewood will host a full schedule of concerts this year for the first time since 2019.

The 2022 season that runs from June 17 through Sept. 4 will include a 90th birthday celebration for John Williams with conductor Ken-David Masur leading the orchestra and featuring guest artists including Yo-Yo Ma and Branford Marsalis; a Boston Pops tribute to Stephen Sondheim; James Taylor’s traditional July Fourth show; and the popular artists series that includes Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, Brandi Carlile, Judy Collins and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The lineup includes eight world and American premieres and 28 works by living composers, as well as 21 artists in their Tanglewood or BSO debuts.

Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Andris Nelsons will lead nine programs, including the July 8-10 Opening Night program of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 with piano soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”

“The 2022 Tanglewood season is filled with so many wonderful styles of composition, performed by the most extraordinary musicians working today, among them our very own Boston Symphony Orchestra,” Nelsons said in a statement.

Tanglewood, located in the towns of Lenox and Stockbridge in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937.

The 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and last year’s schedule was shortened.

Ozawa Hall and the Linde Center for Music and Learning, which were both closed in 2020 and 2021, will reopen this year for smaller audiences to take in recitals, chamber music and guest ensemble performances.

Given the ongoing pandemic, the BSO said it would announce updated health and safety measures closer to start of the summer season.

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Ticker: Sale of Table Talk Pie headquarters final; Home sales fall, available properties at record low

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Ticker: Sale of Table Talk Pie headquarters final; Home sales fall, available properties at record low

A former Worcester bakery building that made its last pie earlier this month has been sold for more than $4.5 million to a developer planning to build housing and retail space at the site.

The deal to sell the 3.9-acre site in Worcester that had served as Table Talk Pies headquarters since 1924 to Boston Capital Development LLC was first announced months ago, but was finalized on Wednesday, The Telegram & Gazette reported.

The developers are planning a new building at the site that will include about 350 units of both affordable and market-rate housing and street level retail, according to a statement from NAI Glickman Kovago & Jacobs.

Table Talk Pies, meanwhile, has moved to new headquarters in the city that will also serve as a bakery, distribution facility, and for research and development. The company bakes more than 250 million pies annually, according to its website.

Home sales fall with available properties at a record low

Sales of previously occupied homes fell in December for the first time in four months as available houses fell to the lowest level in more than two decades.

Existing home sales dropped 4.6% last month from November, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 6.2 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

Demand remains healthy, the group said, with median prices jumping nearly 16% from a year ago to $358,000. The number of houses for sale slumped to just 910,000 in December, the fewest since records began in 1999.

“It’s very hard for sales to meaningfully grow when there’s just not that much available to buy,” said Kwame Donaldson, senior economist for real estate website Zillow.

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Broncos’ coaching search moves along with Kevin O’Connell, Brian Callahan interviews

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Broncos’ coaching search moves along with Kevin O’Connell, Brian Callahan interviews

Broncos general manager George Paton and team executives checked another time zone off their traveling box Thursday, heading to Los Angeles to interview Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell after conducting a virtual meeting with Cincinnati offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.

Since Jan. 13, Paton and Co. have flown from Denver to Detroit to Green Bay to Denver to Dallas to Providence, R.I., to Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Callahan and O’Connell were the eighth and ninth candidates interviewed by the Broncos. Next up is Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy on Friday.

Like Green Bay assistants Nathaniel Hackett and Luke Getsy, who were interviewed last week, Callahan and O’Connell are non-play calling coordinators.

Callahan, 37, was up first, two days before Cincinnati plays its first AFC Divisional playoff game in 31 years when it visits top-seeded Tennessee.

A Broncos assistant from 2010-15, Callahan moved on to coach quarterbacks in Detroit (2016-17) and Oakland (2018) before coach Zac Taylor hired him as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator in ’19.

The Bengals have improved from two to 10 wins over three years and from 29th to 13th in scoring this year.

Callahan told reporters this week it has been “really easy,” to keep his attention toward the Titans game.

“My focus is 100% on this game and to our players; there is no other focus for me,” he said. “Anything I do outside of that framework, it’s on my own time late at night (or) early in the morning. These (interviews) are things you slowly prepare for over time and you get a chance to collect your thoughts.

“All of these things are personal accolades and it’s because the team has had success and you get individual benefit from the collective success and that’s certainly where I’m at right now. It’s an honor to be involved in a process like (the Broncos’).”

Callahan is the son of Bill Callahan, previously the head coach of the Raiders (reaching the Super Bowl after the 2002 season) and Nebraska and currently the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line coach.

Before joining the Broncos in 2010, Brian Callahan worked as a graduate assistant at UCLA and two years as a California high school coach. In five years, he had three titles with the Broncos: Coaching assistant (2010), offensive quality control coach (2011-12) and offensive assistant (2013-15). After the February 2016 Super Bowl win, he departed for Detroit to work with offensive coordinator and former Broncos assistant Jim Bob Cooter.

With the Raiders, Callahan coached quarterback Derek Carr, who passed for 4,049 yards, the first of a streak of four consecutive 4,000-yard seasons.

This year for the Bengals, quarterback Joe Burrow finished with 4,611 yards (sixth in the league), 34 touchdowns (eighth) and a 108.3 passer rating (second).

O’Connell, 36, played 40 games at quarterback for San Diego State and was a third-round draft pick by New England (No. 94 overall); in the first round, the Patriots selected Jerod Mayo, who interviewed with the Broncos on Wednesday.

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