Entertainment

Jussie Smollett found guilty of lying to police about hate crime

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After two days of deliberations, a Chicago jury found Jussie Smollett guilty of lying to police about an orchestrated attack in 2019. The 39-year-old actor, who has maintained his innocence, was charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct. He was found guilty on five of those charges — for making false reports in the days immediately following the incident — and acquitted on one count of lying to an investigator weeks later, according to the Associated Press. 

“I’ve lost my livelihood,” Smollett testified this week, calling allegations the attack was a hoax “100 percent false.” 

The jury disagreed.

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves a Chicago courthouse on Dec. 8 as a jury begins deliberation during his trial. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves a Chicago courthouse on Dec. 8 as a jury begins deliberation during his trial. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Six men and six women deliberated a little over nine hours before reaching their verdict. While Smollett faces a possible sentence of up to three years in prison, legal experts say it’s unlikely he will spend time behind bars as he has no prior criminal history and no one was actually injured. He will most likely be sentenced to a combination of probation and community service.

The former Empire star, who is Black and gay, claimed he was the victim of a hate crime when two men poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck and yelled racist and homophobic slurs. An investigation led Chicago police to two brothers, Abimbola (“Bola”) and Olabinjo (“Ola”) Osundairo, who were acquaintances of the actor. The brothers testified at trial that Smollett paid them $3,500 in part to stage the attack.

Smollett testified in his own defense and said the check was for personal-training services. The defense alleged the brothers tried to get Smollett to pay them $1 million to not cooperate with prosecutors. The actor claimed he and Bola had a sexual relationship and his attorney implied homophobia could have been a motive for the attack. While on the stand, Smollett said he didn’t want to call police after the incident because he didn’t want news to get out.

“I am an openly gay man. I am an actor. I want to play a boxer. I want to be a superhero,” he said according to the Wall Street Journal, explaining how he didn’t want to be known as a gay person who got beat up.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb argued Smollett wanted media exposure to further his career — but didn’t want the brothers to get caught. Webb accused the actor of misleading police to look “for someone white.” Smollett testified he wasn’t sure the suspects were white, but “assumed” that was the case, per CNN.

Webb noted how Smollett withheld cellphone, medical and DNA evidence from police. The prosecutor emphasized how the Osundairo brothers couldn’t have attacked the actor without advance knowledge of where he’d be in the early morning of Jan. 29, 2019. Webb showed video evidence of a supposed dry run days before. Smollett was allegedly attacked around 2 a.m. as he walked home from picking up food at Subway in the middle of a polar vortex.

The incident garnered worldwide attention three years ago, with everyone from Ariana Grande, Zendaya, Sen. Cory Booker and former President Donald Trump weighing in. When Chicago police accused Smollett of staging the attack, the actor was dropped from Empire. Some of his colleagues admitted to feeling conflicted over the scandal.

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