Jussie Smollett to be sentenced in hate crime hoax

By | March 10, 2022

Jussie Smollett is being sentenced Thursday for his role in lying to police about a hate crime in 2019. Smollett, best known for his role in the TV show “Empire,” was convicted in December of five counts of lying to police about the attack but has maintained throughout his extensive legal battles that it was real.

Smollett faces up to three years in prison for each of the five felony counts.

The sentencing will bring a temporary end to Smollett’s battle regarding the attack, which frustrated the Chicago Police Department and led to Smollett being fired from “Empire” at the height of the show’s popularity.

On January 29, 2019, the Black and gay actor told Chicago police he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. He claimed two men followed him down a street late at night, yelling slurs before tossing an “unknown chemical substance” on him and placing a noose around his neck.

But during the trial, police and prosecutors alleged that Smollett paid brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo $3,500 to stage the attack. The brothers testified that Smollett asked them to carry out a fake attack.

During Thursday’s sentencing, Smollett’s defense team repeated their request to have his conviction thrown out or declared a mistrial, based on a previous Cook County prosecutor’s promise in 2019 to drop his original charges. Defense attorney Tina Glandian argued Smollett’s re-prosecution was a violation of Smollett’s rights and said several mistakes were made during the trial.

Prosecutors pushed back against the defense team’s claims, calling them “finger-pointing and scapegoating.”

Judge James Linn denied the request for a new trial, saying, “The only crime that was at play in this entire scenario was the false police report.”

The prosecution also read a victim impact statement from the Chicago Police Department, which claimed Smollett’s false report took money and time from the department that could have been used to solve crimes and harmed “real” victims of hate crimes.

Smollett’s defense provided several key witnesses that spoke to Smollett’s character as well as his impact as an actor and role model in the African American community.

“He is a very loving and caring young man,” former “Empire” music director Rich Daniels said on the stand, describing how Smollett gave back to the Chicago community, including visiting students in local schools. “I just think the world of him.”

Smollett’s older brother Joel Smollett also read a statement pleading for leniency on Smollett’s behalf, saying, “Jussie should not be incarcerated. He has always been a loyal, loving, and creative human being. He is not a threat to the people of Illinois. “

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