Jussie Smollett, convicted of lying to the police
(CNN) – Juicy Smollett He was convicted of five counts of felony by a Chicago jury, for falsely reporting to police that he was a hate crime victim in January 2019. Smollett was also acquitted of one felony charge of disturbing public order.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated for more than nine hours on Wednesday and Thursday.
Prosecutors tried to prove that the former “Empire” actor made false police reports after he paid Olabengo and Abimbola Osondaero to carry out an organized hate crime attack against him in order to gain extensive media coverage.
The charge of disorderly conduct for falsely reporting a crime is a fourth-degree felony and carries a penalty of up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Cook County Judge James Lane has the power to impose a simultaneous or consecutive sentence for each count at a later date.
On January 29, 2019, Smollett, who is black and gay, told authorities that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack near his Chicago apartment early that morning.
After the story spread, many celebrities, politicians and advocacy groups rallied behind the 39-year-old actor, who, according to police, said the alleged assailants attacked him at 2 a.m. as he was returning from a sandwich shop in Subway.
Chicago police investigated the case as a possible hate crime, but quickly said the actor had orchestrated the incident. They said he paid two brothers he knew from the TV show “Empire” to represent the incident for propaganda purposes. Smollett said he paid the brothers for exercise tips and nutritional advice.
Two brothers, Paula and Ola Osondaero, were among the seven prosecution witnesses. The brothers testified that Smollett led and pushed them to launch the attack in an attempt to gain media attention. They said they gave him fake punches, egged him, wrapped a rope around his neck and used racist and homophobic insults, because he told them to do so.
“Who was responsible for this?” asked private attorney Dan Webb.
“Josie Kant,” Paula Osondaero told the jury.
Defense attorneys also called seven witnesses, chosen by Smollett himself to testify. For eight hours on Mondays and Tuesdays, he gave his version of the incident, trying to discredit the two brothers’ true motives and explaining his mistrust of the police.
“Have you ever planned a show?” asked one of his lawyers.
It never happened in my life, Smollett said.
Smollett was initially charged in March 2019 with 16 counts of disorderly conduct. But the Cook County District Attorney’s office, Kim Fox, abruptly dropped all charges weeks later, saying he had performed community service, forfeited his $10,000 guarantee and was not a danger to the community. He also did not have any previous criminal convictions.
Smollett’s character was scrapped from Empire, which ended in 2020 shortly after his arrest, and although he has directed and produced a movie since then, he has never appeared again on screen.
New charges were brought against him in February 2020 when the special counsel examined the case after a discussion about whether Smollett had received preferential treatment from the attorney general’s office.
Smollett still faces a civil lawsuit from the city demanding reimbursement for the cost of investigating the reported attack. He filed a counterclaim in November 2019 which was eventually dismissed.
CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Bill Kirkus and Ashley Kellogg report from Chicago. Steve Almasi, Travis Caldwell, Eric Levinson, Jason Hanna, and Christina Maxuris contributed to this report.