Jussie Smollett should be sentenced for hate crime hoax

Smollett, 39, was convicted in December of five counts of disorderly conduct for making false reports to police that he had been the victim of a hate crime in January 2019.

At a sentencing hearing for Smollett on Thursday afternoon, lawyers are expected to first discuss before Judge James Linn the actor’s request to overturn the verdict or grant him a new trial.

Smollett’s attorney, Mark Lewis, had filed a dozen arguments for the actor’s request last month, including the defense’s claim that he was improperly prevented from asking potential jurors questions during of the jury selection process. At the time, Linn decided that only he would ask questions, not the defense or the prosecution.

If Linn denies Smollett’s request or postpones a decision, sentencing will continue. Smollett’s defense attorneys also said they intended to challenge the verdict in the appeals court.

Smollett, who is black and gay, told Chicago police that on a freezing night in January 2019, two unidentified men attacked him, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, poured water on him from Javel and he wrapped a noose around his neck.

Chicago police investigated the case as a possible hate crime, but quickly determined that the actor orchestrated the incident. They said he paid two brothers he knew from the Fox drama “Empire” to stage the incident for publicity purposes.

The brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, were among seven prosecution witnesses at the trial. They testified that Smollett directed and paid them to stage the attack in an effort to gain sympathetic media coverage.

They said they faked him, doused him in bleach, put a noose around his neck and used racist and homophobic slurs, because he told them.

Smollett testified in his own defense and said he only paid the brothers for training advice and nutritional advice. He questioned their true motives and said he had sex with one of the brothers, which the brother denied.

In December, defense attorney Nenye Uche said he disagreed with the jury’s verdict and that the defense would appeal and win in the appeals court.

“He (Smollett) is 100 per cent confident that this will be overturned on appeal,” Uche said. “At the end of the day, we believe justice will prevail. We don’t believe it has been done (in December), but we are very confident that he will be cleared and he will be found innocent.”

A disorderly conduct charge for a false crime report is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, each punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Linn will have the discretion to impose a concurrent or consecutive sentence for each of the five counts.

What Jussie Smollett's guilty verdicts tell us

Linn could also sentence Smollett to probation, parole, community service, restitution or a combination. Parole would be release with conditions, but without probationary supervision.

Smollett has never been convicted of a felony. Partly because of that, jail time seems unlikely, a former Cook County prosecutor told CNN.

Another reason is that Linn did not revoke Smollett’s bail after his sentencing, ex-prosecutor Darren O’Brien said.

“If the person is ultimately taken into custody, they usually revoke bail,” said O’Brien, who wrote Illinois sentencing guides published by the state bar. “That’s another indication that I doubt he’s going to jail.”

Special Prosecutor Daniel Webb did not file a jail sentence recommendation ahead of the hearing, but stressed in December after Smollett’s sentencing that the actor was “not at all repentant” when he testified during of the trial.

CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson previously told CNN the judge could grant Smollett probation, but Smollett ‘faced jail time’ when he testified in court. the tribunal.

“When you testify in a case, the judge now has an idea of ​​what you said,” Jackson said. “What Jussie Smollett said was flatly rejected by this jury. The jury didn’t buy what they were selling. It’s not lost on a judge. You walked into the courtroom and made up .”

The original charges are gone

Smollett was originally charged in March 2019 with 16 counts of disorderly conduct. But Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office suddenly dropped all charges weeks later, saying he had performed community service, he would not get his bail back from $10,000, that he posed no danger to the community, and that he had no prior crimes.

But the ruling sparked a debate over whether Smollett received preferential treatment, leading a judge to appoint a special prosecutor, Webb, to look into him in August 2019.
This led to a second grand jury, which in February 2020 indicted Smollett on the charges he would be found guilty of.
Smollett’s character was written out of “Empire,” which ended in 2020, and while he’s since directed and produced a movie, he’s yet to star in another acting role at the television or in the cinema.

City says it wants investigation costs reimbursed

The city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Smollett in April 2019 after the actor refused to pay the city $130,106.15 for the police investigation, according to court documents. Smollett filed a countersuit in November 2020.

The Chicago Law Department noted in the city’s lawsuit that more than two dozen police officers and detectives spent weeks working on Smollett’s case in 2019, resulting in 1,836 overtime hours.

Following Smollett’s sentencing in December, the city said it intended to pursue its legal action.

CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.


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