Jussie Smollett, former “Empire” star and singer, has been found guilty on five of six counts of felony disorderly conduct after the actor was accused of staging against himself what he claimed to be a hate crime nearly three years ago.
The highly publicized case came to a close on Thursday, Dec. 9, CNN reported. Following two days of deliberation, jury members in a Cook County courtroom concluded that the 39-year-old had lied to police about the attack on him that purportedly took place in downtown Chicago in January 2019. Lying to authorities is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Smollett faced six counts of felony disorderly conduct charges for allegedly filing a false police report. A jury found him guilty of five counts relating to what he reportedly told police officers immediately following the attack. The sixth count, for which he was found not guilty, related to additional comments Smollett reportedly made to police two weeks after the incident.
Smollett, who is Black and gay, claimed that he was assaulted by two men later identified as brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo. The actor told police he was beaten, doused with bleach and had a noose placed around his neck.
He said his attackers yelled and called out racist and homophobic remarks. He also alleged that the men verbally declared, “This is MAGA country,” in reference to then-President Donald Trump’s controversial “Make America Great Again” slogan.
However, after the investigation had commenced, authorities quickly began to question how involved Smollett was in his attack, as did some of his supporters. The “Alien: Covenant” actor maintained his innocence during trial proceedings, though his claims were strikingly different from that of the Osundairo brothers.
Smollett’s recent verdict only appeared to split folks on social media further. “I feel sorry for you. You are an angry individual,” one critic on Twitter wrote directly to the actor. “You tried to lie, to deceive many and you got caught. You’re angry that YOUR sin was exposed and yet you still blame someone else but face it, you were wrong and justice prevailed.”
In a statement to TMZ following the verdict, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Los Angeles chapter of BLM stated, “So let’s be clear: we love everybody in our community … We can never believe police, especially the CPD over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom.”
Judge James Linn will determine an acceptable punishment at a later date. CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson said the judge could give the actor just probation, but he “exposed himself to jail time” when he testified in court.
“When you testify in a case, the judge now gets a sense of what you said,” Jackson explained. “What Jussie Smollett said was resoundingly rejected by that jury. The jury did not buy what he was selling. That’s not lost upon a judge. You came into the courtroom and fabricated.”
Smollett is expected to appeal the verdict. His attorney, Nenye Uche, said the actor “respectfully disagrees” with the jury’s verdict and that the case will be won on appeal.”He is 100% confident that this will be reversed on appeal,” Uche said. “At the end of the day, we believe justice will prevail. We don’t believe it was done today, but we’re very confident that he will be cleared, and he will be found to be innocent.”
Smollett could still face more legal troubles after the City of Chicago said in a statement that it “intends to continue to pursue its lawsuit” to hold Smollett accountable.
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