Jussie Smollett’s conviction for lying to police about a racist, homophobic assault occurred nearly three years after his claim of a horrific hate crime became part of a heated political environment, with individuals from all over the world weighing in, including the president of the United States.
The jury’s decision was “a loud statement from the jury that Mr. Smollett did precisely what we alleged he did” — enlist two brothers to stage an assault so it could be filmed by a security camera and shared on social media for notoriety, according to a prosecutor.
The brothers stated that the former “Empire” star paid them $3,500 for the scam and given them words to say, including “MAGA nation,” an apparent allusion to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
The revelation made international news and sparked a big manhunt in Chicago, with around two dozen cops joining the inquiry. Trump also slammed the police department’s handling of the issue, calling it “an utter shame to our country.”
“Not only did Mr. Smollett lie to the police and cause chaos here in the city for weeks on end for no reason at all,” special prosecutor Dan Webb said following Thursday’s verdict.
Throughout the almost three-year court struggle, Smollett, who is Black and homosexual, maintained that he was attacked in downtown Chicago in January 2019 by individuals who screamed racial and anti-gay slurs and tied a noose around his neck.
After a jury found him guilty on five of six charges of disorderly conduct for lying to police, Smollett’s lawyers declared him innocent once more on Thursday. Smollett will appeal his conviction, according to Nenye Uche, who is “100% convinced” that an appeals court would vindicate his identity.
“Unfortunately, we were up against an uphill struggle because Jussie had already been tried and convicted in the media, and then we had to convince the jury to forget or unsee all of the terrible news articles that they had been hearing for the previous three years,” Uche said after the ruling.
The 39-year-old was found guilty on five counts of disorderly behaviour, one for each time he was accused of lying to police in the days after the alleged attack. In mid-February, weeks after Smollett claimed he was attacked, he was acquitted on a sixth count of lying to a detective.
As the jury’s judgment was pronounced, Smollett rose and faced the jurors, his face expressionless. Later, he and his family exited the courts without saying anything.
Judge James Linn has scheduled a post-trial hearing on January 27 and has announced that Smollett’s sentence would be scheduled at a later date. Disorderly conduct is a class 4 felony that has a maximum term of three years in jail, but experts have predicted that if Smollett is found guilty, he will likely be sentenced to probation and community service.
His personal and professional lives might be seriously harmed. “I’ve lost my livelihood,” Smollett told jurors earlier this week after prosecutors indicated the purported attack was a fake.
Following a one-week trial, the jury deliberated for about nine hours on Wednesday and Thursday.
“There was no fake,” Smollett said, adding that he was the victim of a true hate crime. He referred to the brothers who testified against him as “liars,” claiming that the $3,500 check he sent them was for meal and training plans.
The brothers attacked the actor because they were homophobic and didn’t like “who he was,” according to his lawyers. They also said that the brothers made up the allegation about the assault being staged in order to acquire money from Smollett, and that they promised not to testify against him if he gave each of them $1 million.
When asked if Smollett may face perjury charges for lying on the witness stand on Thursday, Webb said perjury charges “usually” don’t come until a person is convicted, but it was unknown what would happen in Smollett’s case.
He also stated that the jury’s decision exonerated the Chicago Police Department.
“A lot of people say things like, ‘Well, cops sweep things under the rug.’ “This police department reacted by testifying in court that they took it very seriously,” Webb added. “They thought he was a victim of a crime, therefore they put forth a lot of effort for the following three weeks.”
Uche, on the other hand, believes Chicago cops should have looked into the matter “far further” and that some witnesses were never interrogated.
He termed the jury’s split decision “inconsistent,” saying it didn’t make sense for Smollett to be found guilty of five charges but not the sixth, because “everything derives from one occurrence.”
An attorney representing the brothers who testified against Smollett, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, said her clients “could not be more elated and satisfied with the outcome.”
Gloria Rodriguez remarked that Chicago cops “got this one right.”