Jurors have found former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett guilty on five of six counts of staging a racist and anti-gay attack on himself in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago.
The decision comes after jurors heard several days of testimony from several witnesses and Smollett himself, who called claims that he staged the attack “100% false.”
The jury in Smollett’s trial was tasked with deciding whether Smollett is guilty on six counts of a low-level felony for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack. He faces one count of felony disorderly conduct for each time he gave a report to three different officers.
A disorderly conduct charge for a false crime report is a Class 4 felony and punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Cook County Judge James Linn will have discretion in imposing a concurrent or consecutive sentence for each count at a later date.
On January 29, 2019, Smollett told authorities he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack near his Chicago apartment early that morning. According to the police, the alleged perpetrators attacked him at 2 a.m. as he walked back from a Subway sandwich shop.
Chicago police investigated the case as a possible hate crime but soon said the actor orchestrated the incident. They said he paid two brothers he knew from the TV show “Empire” to stage the incident for publicity. Smollett said he paid the brothers for training advice and nutritional tips.
The brothers, Bola and Ola Osundairo, were among seven witnesses for the prosecution. The brothers testified that Smollett directed them and paid them to stage the attack in an attempt to get media attention. They said that they fake punched him, poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck and used racist and homophobic slurs — because he told them to.
“Who was in charge of this thing?” special prosecutor Dan Webb asked. “Jussie was,” Bola Osundairo told the jury. Defense attorneys also called seven witnesses to testify, highlighted by Smollett himself. Over eight hours on Monday and Tuesday, he laid out his version of the incident, attempted to cast doubt on the brothers’ true motivations and explained his distrust for police.
“Have you ever planned a hoax?” one of his attorneys asked. “Never in my life,” Smollett said. Smollett’s character was written off “Empire,” which ended in 2020, soon after his arrest and though he has since directed and produced a film, he has not appeared on screen again. Smollett still faces a civil suit from the city that demands reimbursement for the cost of investigating his reported attack.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CHICAGO TRIBUNE
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