Former ‘Empire’ actress Jussie Smollett is due to be sentenced in Chicago Thursday on charges of… Falsely telling the police that he was the victim Hate crime – although his lawyers will first try to persuade the judge to overturn the guilty verdict.
Smollett, 39, was sinner In December, five counts of felony disorderly conduct for making false reports about what he said was a hate crime against gays and blacks.
The actor, who is black and gay, told Chicago police that on a very cold night in January 2019, two unidentified men attacked him, shouted racist and anti-gay insults at him, poured bleach on him and wrapped a noose around his neck.
Celebrities and politicians rushed to publicly defend him, and Chicago police investigated the case as a possible hate crime. But they soon decided that the perpetrator orchestrated the accident and Pay two brothers know him From Fox’s drama “Empire” to show the incident on publicity.
Smollett maintained his innocence under oath during the trial, but a jury convicted him on five of six criminal charges after nine hours of deliberation.
The charge of disorderly conduct for falsely reporting a crime is a fourth-degree felony in Illinois, each punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Cook County Judge James Lane has discretion to impose a simultaneous or consecutive sentence on each of the five counts. He is allowed to sentence Smollett to probation, conditional discharge, community service, compensation, or combination. A conditional discharge is conditionally exempted but without probationary supervision.
At Thursday afternoon’s hearing, lawyers are expected to first argue before Judge Lin over the actor’s request to have the ruling overturned or to give him a new trial.
Smollett’s attorney, Mark Lewis, presented dozens of arguments for the actor’s request last month, including the defense’s claim that he was improperly barred from asking potential jurors during the jury selection process. At the time, Lin decided he would only ask questions, not the defense or the prosecution.
If Lane refuses Smollett’s request or delays sentencing, sentencing will proceed. Smollett’s defense attorneys also said they intend to appeal the ruling.
The verdict is the latest event in a tortuous case involving racism, homophobia, celebrity, police and fraud cases.
After police determined his reports were false, Smollett was indicted in March 2019 on 16 counts of disorderly conduct offenses. But the Cook County District Attorney’s office, Kim Fox, dropped all charges weeks later, saying he had done community service, would not get his $10,000 bond back, was not a danger to the community and had no prior crimes.
This decision sparked controversy about Whether Smollett has received preferential treatmentleads the judge to Appointment of a special prosecutorDan Webb, for consideration in August 2019. This led to a second grand jury, which was in February 2020 Smollett accused on six criminal charges.
The accident effectively ended Smollett’s acting career. was his character Written out of “Empire“which ended in 2020, and although it has since ended Film directing and productionHe has not yet appeared in a television or film acting role.
In court late last year, brothers Abimbola and Olabingo Osondaero were among the prosecution’s seven witnesses at the trial. they Smollett testified that their face and paid them to launch the attack in an attempt to gain sympathetic media coverage.
“Who was responsible for this thing?” asked Special Prosecutor Dan Webb.
Josie Kant, Abimbola Osondaero told the jury.
Smollett testified in his own defense to deny any such plan and said he only paid the brothers for training tips and nutritional advice. questioned their true motives and He said he had a sexual relationship With one of the brothers, which the brother denied.
The primary question when sentencing is whether Smollett, who has no prior felonies, ever received a prison sentence.
The former Cook County District Attorney told CNN that Smollett’s lack of a criminal history makes a prison sentence unlikely. Another reason, former prosecutor Darren O’Brien said, was that Lane did not void Smollett’s bail after his conviction.
“If a person is eventually going to be taken into custody, they usually void the bail,” said O’Brien, who has written sentencing guides in Illinois published by the state bar association. “This is another indication that I doubt he will be imprisoned.”
Special Prosecutor Daniel Webb did not recommend a prison sentence prior to the hearing, but confirmed in December after Smollett’s conviction that the actor “was not at all repentant” when he testified during the trial.
CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joe Jackson previously told CNN that a judge might give Smollett probation, but Smollett “exposed himself to imprisonment” when he testified in court.
“When you testify in a case, the judge now understands what you said,” Jackson said. “What Josie Smollett said was flatly rejected by that jury. The jury didn’t buy what he was selling. That wasn’t lost on the judge. I came into the courtroom and made up.”
In addition, the city of Chicago sued Smollett in April 2019 after the actor refused to pay $130,106.15 to the city for a police investigation, court documents show. Smollett filed a counterclaim in November 2020.
The Chicago Department of Law noted in the city’s lawsuit that more than two dozen police officers and investigators spent weeks working on the Smollett case in 2019, resulting in 1,836 overtime hours.
After Smollett’s conviction in December, the city said it intended to pursue the lawsuit.