Jury in case of out actor Jussie Smollett reaches guilty verdict

CHICAGO – The jury in the case of actor Jussie Smollett has returned a guilty verdict during his trial on five counts of faking a hate crime and being responsible for orchestrating it in January 2019.

The jury deliberated for just over nine hours on Wednesday and Thursday after the week-long trial saw testimony and argument closed on Wednesday afternoon.

Smollett, 39, found guilty of five counts of misconduct, a Class 4 felony, faces a sentence of up to three years in prison. According to a Chicago criminal defense attorney speaking on the merits, he argued that based on his experience with the legal system of the Chicago court system, the actor would likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform construction work. general interest.

Smollett, testifying in his own defense, told court he was physically assaulted around 2:30 a.m. on January 29 by two men who hurled homophobic and racist slurs at him, including the phrase “MAGA country” , a reference to former President Trump’s presidential campaign. slogan.

The former “Empire” star was previously indicted by Cook County prosecutors in February 2019 after law enforcement officials alleged he conspired with two black friends to stage the attack because he was not satisfied with his salary from the Fox series and wanted to generate publicity to increase his career. In March, the charges against him were dropped, with little explanation from prosecutors – although at the time, presiding judge Michael Toomin suggested he could be charged again.

the the second indictment comes Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, who was appointed to the case by Toomin after the original charges were dropped. In a report, Webb said that Smollett was charged with six counts of disorderly conduct, related to four separate false reports he gave to police in which he claimed to be a victim of a hate crime “knowing he was not was not a victim of a crime. “

After first investigating the incident as a hate crime, Chicago detectives in their affidavits and sworn testimony noted that their investigation revealed that Smollett paid brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (” Abel ”) Osundairo, who came from Nigeria to organize the attack. .

During their testimony last week, the Osundairo brothers told the court the actor recruited them to fake the attack near his home in downtown Chicago. They testified that Smollett, who is blatantly gay and black, asked them to put a noose around his neck, shout racist and homophobic slurs and brutalize him in sight of a nearby surveillance camera.

Evidence presented by prospectors showed that the two brothers at a local retail store were purchasing the rope and other items used to stage the attack which Chicago police determined the actor paid for.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury on Wednesday that Smollett pressured the Chicago police to spend enormous resources investigating what they believed to be a bogus crime according to the Associated Press.

“Besides being against the law, it is simply wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a true hate crime and then make sure it is words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country, ”said Webb.

Webb also questioned Smollett’s integrity and credibility in his testimony telling jurors that surveillance footage from before the alleged attack and that night contradicts key moments in Smollett’s account of events.

Smollett’s defense attorney Nenye Uche challenged the Osundairo brothers’ testimony calling them “sophisticated liars” who may have been motivated to attack the actor because of homophobia or because they wanted to be hired to work as his security. “These guys want to make money,” he told the court.

The special prosecutor at the trial also targeted the actor’s refusal to hand over his cell phone to investigators or give them a DNA sample or access his medical records to assist with the investigation. Smollett testified that he did not trust the Chicago police and that he was concerned about his privacy.

“If he was a true victim of crime, he wouldn’t be hiding evidence,” Webb said.

Smollett’s defense attorney told the court it was “foolish” for the police to ask the actor for his DNA when he was still considered the victim of a crime. He also noted that Smollett later provided DNA to the FBI for a separate investigation into the hate mail he received at the “Empire” studio shortly before the alleged attack. “He wasn’t hiding anything,” Uche said.

the Chicago Tribune reported that Smollett remained stoic when the verdict was announced. He was found guilty on five of the six counts. The first five counts concerned Smollett’s conduct on the day of the incident, while the sixth concerned his conversation with a police detective.

Cook County Circuit Judge James Linn has set a Jan. 27 court date for motions in the case ahead of the actor’s conviction.

Lawyers for the actor have said after today’s verdict that they are on the verge of appeal, but his legal issues also extend to the City of Chicago’s civil lawsuit against the “Empire” star. demanding that he reimburse the city for $ 130,000 – the cost of the police investigation into the incident he reported as a suspected hate crime.

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