Former Empire star Jussie Smollett has been convicted of lying to the police, about the2019 incident where he claimed to be the victim of a homophobic and racist assault on five counts, on December 9. He was acquitted on a sixth charge.
Smollett faced six counts of “disorderly conduct,” a Class 4 felony in Illinois, a relatively minor offense, as reported by Variety. The charges carry a potential maximum sentence of three years in prison, but are more likely to result in a sentence of probation. Dan Webb, the special prosecutor who tried the case, said the verdict was a “complete vindication” for the Chicago Police Department. He said that Smollett’s false report had harmed the city, and argued that Smollett had compounded his misconduct by lying on the witness stand. He said he would raise that point at sentencing.
“Defendants do not have the right to go in front of a jury and lie under oath,” Webb said. “I was very proud this jury came to the conclusion he was guilty.” Smollett’s attorney Nenye Uche told the Associated Press that Smollett would appeal the conviction and is committed to clearing his name.
Megan Crepeau of the Chicago Tribune and Charlie De Mar of CBS Chicago tweeted the verdicts live. The five guilty verdicts pertained to statements Smollett made to the police the day of the alleged assault, while the sixth count pertained to a police interview two weeks later. No sentencing date was set, and Smollett remains free on bond. The jury began deliberating on Wednesday and reached its verdict late Thursday afternoon. The deliberations lasted a total of nine hours.
The case touched a nerve across the country, coming at the height of Trump-era cultural conflict and combining elements of celebrity, race, sexual orientation, violence and fraud. The charges were reinstated after a retired judge filed a petition seeing the appointment of a special prosecutor. Webb, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed to take over the case, and he obtained an indictment in February 2020. Smollett’s attorneys argued that the new charges violated the principle of double jeopardy, but Judge James Linn denied their motions to have the charges thrown out.
On January 29, 2019, Smollett told Chicago Police, that he was attacked by two men in the street, who yelled slurs at him, put a noose around his neck and said, “This is MAGA country.” The police aggressively investigated the case, only to announce three weeks later that it was a hoax, and that Smollett had paid $3,500 to two men, Abimbola and OlabinjoOsundairo, to stage the attack.Both brothers testified at the trial, telling jurors that Smollett had taken them on a “dry run,” given them money to buy supplies, and told them to hit him but “not too hard.”
Jussie Smollett, however, has continued to maintain his innocence. He testified in his own defense on Monday and Tuesday, saying that the Osundairo brothers are liars and that he really was assaulted. “There was no hoax,” Smollett testified.
Jussie Smollett was written off of Empire in the wake of the incident, and testified that his career had been damaged.
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