Actor Jussie Smollett was found guilty on charges that he lied to cops about staging a fake hate crime on a frigid Chicago street in January of 2019. Smollett had been charged with six felony counts of disorderly conduct—enough for him to get a maximum of three years in prison, or as little as probation or a fine—and jurors returned guilty verdicts on five of the six counts
Flanked by family members and attorney , Smollett entered a courtroom to hear the verdict read. Also in the courtroom were brothers Abimbola Osundario and Olabinjo Osundairo, who testified during the six-day trial that Smollett had paid them to beat him up. Smollett called police in the late hours of Jan. 29, 2019, reporting that he’d been jumped by white men yelling homophobic and racist slurs (Smollett is Black and gay), and who hung a noose around his neck.. One of the men, he said, wore a MAGA hat
Central in the trial were two drastically different versions of what happened: Prosecutors alleged it was all a hoax, accusing Smollett of orchestrating his own assault to drum up publicity for himself. Smollett, who pleaded not guilty to all the charges, said from the stand that there was never a hoax.
Jurors sided with prosecutors.
From the New York Times
The special prosecutor in the case, Daniel K. Webb, told the jury that Mr. Smollett staged the attack because he had received a hate-filled death threat in the mail and was upset by the muted response of the producers behind the television show on which he starred, “Empire.”
Mr. Webb argued there were several points of Mr. Smollett’s account that did not make sense: that the Osundairo brothers would know exactly what intersection Mr. Smollett would pass through and when; that Mr. Smollett would initially report his attacker as white when he knew Abimbola Osundairo, who is Black, well; and that Mr. Smollett would refuse to turn over his phone and a saliva sample to the police.
“Mr. Smollett didn’t want the crime solved,” Mr. Webb said during his closing argument on Wednesday. “He wanted to report it as a hate crime; he wanted media exposure; but he didn’t want the brothers apprehended.”
A sentencing hearing is now scheduled for Jan. 27, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Smollett had been charged by Chicago police weeks after the incident, charges that were dropped in March of 2019. He was charged again in February of 2020, according to this timeline of the case from NBC Chicago.