Jussie Smollett was found guilty on Thursday of charges that he staged a hate-crime attack against himself nearly three years ago.
He was charged with six counts of disorderly conduct. The jury voted to convict him on five of those counts.
Deliberations lasted about eight or nine hours over two days. Smollett now faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison — Disorderly Conduct for filing a false police report is a Class 4 felony — though he could be sentenced to only probation. A post-trial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27 and Judge James Linn said he would schedule Smollett’s sentencing at a later date, according to The Associated Press.
Outside the courthouse, special prosecutor Dan Webb called the verdict “a resounding message by the jury that Mr. Smollett did exactly what we said he did.”
Smollett’s attorney Nenye Uche said he will appeal the conviction. “Unfortunately we were facing an uphill battle where Jussie was already tried and convicted in the media 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,” Uche told reporters after the verdict on Thursday (via the AP).
In January 2019, Smollett, then a star of Fox’s “Empire,” told Chicago police he was assaulted late at night by two men yelling racist and homophobic slurs who wore pro-Donald Trump apparel and left him with a noose around his neck. But later investigations purportedly showed that Smollett staged the attack with the help of brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who appeared as extras on “Empire” and claim that Smollett paid them $3,500 for their involvement.
Smollett testified Monday that hate-crime he reported was “no hoax,” according to The Associated Press. Cameras have not been allowed in the courtroom during Smollett’s trial.
On Monday, Smollett testified that the payment was for Abimbola Osundairo’s services as a trainer. Smollett said he needed to get in shape for a music video. Additionally, he said that he and Abimbola Osundairo had multiple sexual encounters, which contracted Abimbola’s own testimony that the two had no prior sexual relationship.
When Smollett was cross-examined and asked why he didn’t give his cell phone to Chicago police to help in their investigation, he said he wanted his privacy.
The disorderly conduct charges were brought by special prosecutor and former U.S. attorney Dan Webb, who did so after previous charges were dismissed by Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx after Smollett agreed to community service. As part of his reopened investigation, Webb determined that Foxx had committed “substantial abuses of discretion” by dismissing the charges but had done nothing illegal. Webb’s charges were brought in February 2020 but are only being brought to trial now due to delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve lost my livelihood,” Smollett said during his Monday testimony.
The incident cost Smollett his role on “Empire” as his character, Jamal Lyon, was written off during the show’s sixth and final season. Smollett’s performance as Jamal, the estranged gay son of music mogul Lucious Lyon, earned him acclaim from critics for his depiction of a proud LGBT character in a hip-hop culture that has a long history of homophobia. He has since produced and directed an independent film “B-Boy Blues,” which opened last month.