Jussie Smollett has been found guilty of falsely reporting to police that he had been a victim of a homophobic and racist hate crime in 2019.
According to Associated Press, jurors deliberated for over nine hours yesterday (December 9) and found the former Empire actor guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct pertaining to a police report he filed on January 29, 2019 – the same day the alleged attack took place.
Smollett was acquitted of one further count of disorderly conduct, relating to a later police report he filed the following February.
Smollett faces up to three years in prison for disorderly conduct, which is a class four felony, though experts have reportedly said the actor is more likely to be put on probation and ordered to do community service.
Smollett’s lawyer Nenye Uche said that he would appeal the conviction, adding that his client was “committed to clearing his name”.
“Unfortunately we were facing an uphill battle where Jussie was already tried and convicted in the media,” Uche told reporters, “and then we had to somehow get the jury to forget or unsee all the news stories that they had been hearing that were negative for the last three years.”
The verdict arrived after a week-long trial that saw two brothers, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, testify that Smollett had recruited them to help him stage an attack in an effort to boost the actor’s publicity, and were paid $3,500 (£2,646).
They further testified that Smollett, who is Black and gay, had instructed them to put a noose around his neck, yell racist and homophobic slurs at him and rough him up, per AP, in the view of a surveillance camera. Smollett denied these claims, reportedly telling the jury “there was no hoax”.
Smollett’s attorneys, however, argued that the brothers’ attack on him was motivated by homophobia. They also argued that the Osundairos faked the story that the attack was staged, and alleged they attempted to blackmail Smollett by telling him they wouldn’t testify against him if he paid them $1million each.
In February 2019, Smollett was arrested for and charged with allegedly filing a false police report. Smollett plead not guilty to these initial charges, and the charges were dropped in March 2019.
The City of Chicago then sued Smollett in an attempt to regain the costs spent on the case – which AP says included two dozen officers and 3,000 staff hours. Smollett subsequently countersued, with his lawyer saying the actor suffered “humiliation and extreme distress” following the incident and deemed Chicago city’s actions against him as “malicious.”
The Osundairo brothers then alleged the attack was staged, and attempted to sue Smollett’s lawyers for defamation.
In June 2019, footage was released appearing to show Smollett with a noose around his neck on the day of the alleged attack. The footage was part of a staggering 1,200 documents that were released relating to the incident.
Six new charges were laid against Smollet in early 2020 after a special prosecutor, Dan Webb, was brought in to further dissect the case. Earlier this week, Webb told the court, “it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country.”
“Mr. Smollett didn’t want the crime solved,” Webb said, per The New York Times. “He wanted to report it as a hate crime; he wanted media exposure; but he didn’t want the brothers apprehended.”
Defense lawyer Nenye Uche accused the Osundairo brothers of being “certified liars”, saying they “wanted to make money.”
“The entire prosecution case was built like a house of cards,” Uche said, per the Chicago Tribune. “And we all know what happens to a house of cards when you apply a little pressure. It crumbles.”