Chicago activist banned from courthouse during Jussie Smollett trial

On Tuesday, a Chicago activist and rap artist was told she was not allowed inside the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse for two days during the Jussie Smollett trial.

Cook County Judge James Linn clarified his position after the Chicago Tribune published a report on Friday about the activist Bella BAHHS being barred from the courtroom.

“To clarify, the Hon. James Linn did not intend to ban anyone from the courtroom, but asked that the person in question not be in the front row,” said the emailed statement. “The court is open to the public, subject to COVID-19 precautions that limit the number of people in the courtroom to 57.”

BAHHS, which stands for Black Ancestors Here Healing Society, told the Tribune she had been asked to leave the courtroom not long after she gave an interview to reporters in the lobby. 

BAHHS was sitting in the front row of the courtroom on Tuesday with the Smollett family during testimony that morning, then she was asked by Smollett’s media representative at the lunch break if she would speak to reporters in the courthouse lobby. She agreed, then went back to the courtroom for afternoon testimony.

She was told later that day by the media representative that the judge wanted her to leave, and BAHHS was escorted out of the courthouse. She returned on Thursday to watch the trial again, but again she was asked to leave the building.

In a statement by the Cook County Sheriff’s office, Linn’s “verbal” order was confirmed, barring “an individual seated in the gallery of his courtroom from the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building for the remainder of the trial of Jussie Smollett.” Linn had earlier issued a verbal directive for attorneys not to speak with media.

“It’s not a gag order; it’s just an agreement between the lawyers,” he said. Linn added that he did not want anyone to “infect this trial.” BAHHS, however, said she did not think it was a miscommunication, and attributing the event as such prevents “anyone from being held accountable.” She continued, “My right to access a public space as a voting and taxpaying member of the public was violated.” 




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