Words: Alastair James
Jussie Smollett has been found guilty of lying to police when he claimed to have been the victim of a homophobic attack in January 2019.
The Empire actor, 39, told a court in Chicago earlier this week that “there was no hoax”, but a jury found him guilty on five out of six counts of disorderly conduct on Thursday (9 December).
Prosecutors argued during the trial that Smollett, who is gay, had orchestrated the incident as a way of raising his profile because he was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire.
“There was no hoax”
Originally, Smollett claimed he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack from two men who had used Donald Trump’s slogan: “Make America Great Again”. He also said a rope had been tied around his neck and a chemical substance had been used on him.
Last week, two Nigerian brothers who were alleged to have carried out the attack, Ola and Abimbola Osundairo, testified that they had been paid $3,500 by Smollett to stage the assault.
Smollett said this money was for a workout and meal plan while he was traveling. The BBC also reports that Smollett said he and Abimbola "masturbated together" before the attack.
Prosecutors repeatedly asked Smollett about the “hoax”, to which he maintained “there was no hoax,” and said: “Any question you're going to ask about that is going to be denied.”
According to the BBC, Prosecutor Dan Webb said outside the court, following the verdict: “For Mr. Smollett to get up in front of [the jury] and lie for hours and hours, that really compounded his misconduct.”
Smollett’s lawyer, Nenye Uche, said they are “100% confident” that they can overturn the verdict in an appeal.
Each of the five counts of disorderly conduct carries a three-year prison sentence, but it’s thought that due to a lack of previous convictions Smollett will get a lighter sentence. Sentencing has yet to take place.
In February 2019, Smollett was charged with filing a false police report to which he pleaded not guilty before all charges were dropped. After investigating the January incident as a hate crime, police then looked at whether Smollett had staged the attack.
The case was reopened by a special prosecutor, who charged Smollett with six new charges of disorderly conduct in 2020 to which the actor pleaded not guilty. Smollett was also dropped from Empire’s fifth season.
In October, the actor made a request to have the case thrown out but this was dismissed by a judge.