Jussie Smollett is about to be jailed for lying to cops about a hate crime hoax.
Jussie Smollett, the former star of “Empire,” is due to be sentenced in a Chicago court on Thursday for fraudulently claiming to police that he was the victim of a hate crime, but his lawyers will first attempt to get the guilty judgment overturned.
Smollett, 39, was convicted of five counts of felony disorderly conduct in December for filing false reports alleging an anti-gay and anti-Black hate crime. The actor, who is Black and homosexual, told Chicago police that two unknown individuals assaulted him on a cold night in January 2019, yelling racial and homophobic comments at him, pouring bleach on him, and tying a noose around his neck.
Celebrities and politicians raced to publicly support him, and the matter was investigated by Chicago police as a probable hate crime. They quickly discovered, however, that the actor staged the event and hired two brothers he knew from the Fox program “Empire” to arrange it for attention. During the trial, Smollett maintained his innocence under oath, but the jury found him guilty on five of the six felony counts after nine hours of deliberation. In Illinois, a charge of disorderly conduct for filing a false criminal report is a class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Judge James Linn of Cook County has the authority to impose a concurrent or consecutive sentence for each of the five crimes. He has the authority to sentence Smollett to probation, conditional discharge, community service, restitution, or a combination of these punishments. Conditional discharge refers to a release with conditions but no probationary period.
Attorneys are likely to argue before Judge Linn about the actor’s plea to have the decision overturned or for a new trial during the hearing on Thursday afternoon.
Last month, Smollett’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, presented a dozen arguments in support of his client, including the defense’s claim that it was unfairly barred from questioning possible jurors during the jury selection process. Linn decided at the moment that only he, not the defense or prosecution, would be allowed to ask questions. Sentence will be carried out if Linn refuses Smollett’s motion or defers a decision. Smollett’s lawyers have reportedly said that they would appeal the decision.
What was the case about?
Smollett was seen with a rope around his neck on body camera video from the night of the crime. He testified that after the incident, he removed the noose, but then placed it back on to show police. The punishment is the most recent development in a complicated case involving racism, homophobia, fame, police, and fraud. Smollett was charged on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct in March 2019 after police found his claims were fake. However, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dismissed all charges weeks later, claiming that he completed community service, would not be reimbursed for his $10,000 bail, posed no threat to the community, and had no previous offenses. That ruling sparked a discussion about whether Smollett had gotten preferential treatment, prompting a judge to appoint Dan Webb as a special prosecutor to investigate it in August 2019. Smollett was charged on six felony counts by a second grand jury in February 2020. Smollett’s acting career was basically ruined as a result of the event. His character was written out of “Empire,” which concluded in 2020, and he has yet to appear in another TV or cinema acting role, despite directing and producing a feature.
The brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, were among seven witnesses for the prosecution in court late last year. They said that Smollett told them to manufacture the assault and paid them to do it in order to get sympathy from the media. Dan Webb, a special prosecutor, enquired, “Who was in control of this thing?” Abimbola Osundairo informed the jurors, “Jussie was.” Smollett testified in his own defense, denying any such scheme and claiming that he simply paid the brothers for training and dietary guidance. He questioned their motives and claimed to have had a sexual connection with one of the brothers, which the brother denied. Smollett has never been convicted of a crime. The main concern before Smollett’s sentencing is whether he would be punished to jail despite the fact that he has no past convictions.
Smollett’s lack of criminal background, according to a former Cook County prosecutor, makes a prison sentence improbable. Another reason, according to the ex-prosecutor Darren O’Brien, is that Linn did not withdraw Smollett’s bail following his conviction. “If the offender is likely to be arrested, they normally withdraw the bail,” said O’Brien, who has authored sentencing manuals for the Illinois State Bar Association. “Another reason why I don’t think he’ll go to prison.” Prior to the hearing, special prosecutor Daniel Webb did not make a request for jail time, but said following Smollett’s conviction in December that the actor was “not contrite at all” when he spoke during the trial. Joey Jackson, a CNN legal expert and criminal defense attorney, previously told CNN that the judge might give Smollett probation, but that when he spoke in court, Smollett “exposed himself to prison time.” “The court now gets a feel of what you say when you testify in a case,” Jackson said. “That jury flatly dismissed Jussie Smollett’s allegations. The jurors was not convinced by what he was attempting to sell. A judge is well aware of this. You faked your way into the courtroom.” Furthermore, according to court filings, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Smollett in April 2019 after the actor refused to pay the city $130,106.15 for the police investigation. In November 2020, Smollett filed a countersuit. In the city’s lawsuit, the Chicago Department of Law said that over two dozen cops and detectives spent weeks working on Smollett’s case in 2019, resulting in 1,836 overtime hours. Following Smollett’s December conviction, the city said that it planned to pursue its case.