Jussie Smollett guilty of lying to police about hate crime attack, jury finds

‘Empire’ actor could face up to three years in prison for felony disorderly conduct charges

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 09 December 2021 23:25
Jussie Smollett testifies for first time during alleged hate crime trial
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A jury has found actor Jussie Smollett guilty on five of six counts of felony disorderly conduct charges that he staged a fake hate crime against himself then lied to police when he reported the alleged attack.

Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports to police, punishable up to three years in prison.

A panel of six men and six women in Chicago reached a verdict on 9 December after deliberating for nine hours split between two days following a one-week trial that included lengthy testimony from Smollett, who claimed “there was no hoax” and denied any wrongdoing. The defence contended that he was the victim of a real homophobic attack.

Smollett was convicted on five counts for lying to police after the alleged attack, but was acquitted on a sixth count involving lying to a detective weeks later.

Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo – brothers who prosecutors claim were paid to stage the attack to attract media attention for Smollett – testified that they were paid $3,500 to stage the sham attack against the Empire actor, who is Black and gay.

They claimed they were instructed to meet Smollett outside his Chicago apartment at 2am on 29 January 2019 and yell slurs and “MAGA” – in reference to former president Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again Slogan” – and throw fake punches, pour bleach on him and place a noose around his neck.

Prosecutor Dan Webb, who accused Smollett of lying under oath during his closing arguments, claimed that Smollett was “hoping the Osundairo brothers would not cooperate with the police.”

“He got exposed, and now we’re in a trial,” he said. “That’s what happened.”

Defence attorney Nenye Uche sought to discredit the brothers, arguing that they were out to exploit Smollett for his money and their own fame.

After he reported the alleged attack, Smollett became a suspect himself, subject to intense media scrutiny and political debate. He lost his role on the hit programme after police believed he staged the attack and he told jurors this week that he “lost my livelihood.”

Following initial reports, before police announced that they believed it was a hoax, celebrities and liberal lawmakers and campaigning politicians pointed to the alleged attack as a high-profile incidence of rising hate crimes, while then-president Trump called it “horrible” and said it “doesn’t get worse”.

Weeks later, after allegations that the attack was a hoax, Mr Trump said it amounted to a smear against his supporters, while his son Donald Trump Jr and right-wing figures and comedians used it as a punchline that seized on the initial rush to judgment.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who initially came to Smollett’s defence, later said that false claims to police not only “[divert] resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward.”

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