Jussie Smollett, a former maiin cast member on Empire who ignited a nationwide firestorm in early 2019 when he claimed to be the victim of a homophobic and racist assault, was convicted on Thursday of basically being a liar.
He was found guilty on five counts of misleading the police about the incident and of falsifying an official report.
He was acquitted on a sixth charge.
Jurors deliberated over the course of two days following a trial that featured Smollett and his accomplices providing VERY different testimony over what transpired on a Chicago sidewalk over two and a half years ago.
Smollett, for example, admitted to having a close relationship with brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, the two men responsible for the so-called attack.
He even opened up on the stand about allegedly doing drugs and exchanging sexual favors with one of these twins.
From the very beginning, however, Smollett has denied paying Olabinjo and Abimbola for carrying out the assault.
Prosecutors, however, argued in court that the brothers were given money by Smollett — who is Black and gay — to stage a fake hate crime attack in order to garner sympathetic media coverage.
Smollett told police after the incident that he was subjected to racist and homophobic slurs by two unknown men… who also poured bleach on him and wrapped a noose around his neck.
The allegation made headlines across the country.
Shortly after it was made, though, authorities investigated the claims and determined the actor orchestrated the scheme; and a grand jury indicted Smollett in February of 2020.
Dan Webb, the special prosecutor who tried the case, said the verdict was a “complete vindication” for the Chicago Police Department.
He said via press confererence that Smollett’s false report had harmed the city, arguing that Smollett had compounded his misconduct by lying on the witness stand.
Webb plans to raise this point at sentencing.
The five charges against Smollett carry a potential maximum sentence of three years in prison, but are more likely to result in a sentence of probation.
He will almost definitely have to make restitution (of approximately $130,000) to the city of Chicago for all the resources it used to look into his original accusations.
“Defendants do not have the right to go in front of a jury and lie under oath,” Webb said on Thursday.
“I was very proud this jury came to the conclusion he was guilty.”
Smollett’s lawyer, Nenye Uche, told the Associated Press that Smollett would appeal the conviction and is committed to clearing his name.
He told reporters yesterday:
“Unfortunately we were facing an uphill battle where Jussie was already tried and convicted in the media and then we had to somehow get the jury to forget or unsee all the news stories that they had been hearing that were negative for the last three years.”
Smollett was written off of Empire in the wake of the incident, and he testified this week that his career had been damaged as a result.
“I’ve lost my livelihood,” he said on the stand.
For good reason, some might say.
Look for Smollett to be sentenced some time in early 2022.