Posted on December 14, 2021

The Jussie Smollett Trial

Anastasia Katz, American Renaissance, December 14, 2021

Credit Image: © E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS via ZUMA Wire

Actor Jussie Smollett is now officially a hate crime hoaxer; a jury in Chicago’s Cook County found him guilty of five out of six charges of disorderly conduct for lying to police, including two charges specifically for claiming to be a victim of a hate crime.

Mr. Smollett was an unknown actor when he was cast on the Fox musical drama series Empire, in 2015. He had acted as a child, appearing in the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks, and with his five siblings in the ABC comedy On Our Own, which ran for one season. He accrued no acting credits at all for about 15 years after that, and had only a few single-appearance television roles before being cast as a regular on Empire, playing the gay son of a hip-hop mogul.

His original salary was $40,000 to $50,000 per episode, but his contract was renegotiated when the show was picked up for a third season, and his salary increased to $120,000 per episode. There were 18 episodes per season thereafter. Mr. Smollett also had some income from iTunes sales of music from the show, but his 2018 debut solo album Sum of My Music flopped. In 2017, he won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Empire, but he was never nominated for an Emmy. Empire is filmed in Chicago, where Mr. Smollett has an apartment.

Festival de la Television de Monte-Carlo

June 18, 2017 – Jussie Smollett – Photocall Empire – 57th Festival de la Television de Monte-Carlo. Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Credit Image: © Visual via ZUMA Press)

On January 20, 2019, Mr. Smollett tweeted: “45 [President Trump] and all his white hooded cohorts are a national disgrace. And if you support them. . . . so are you. Clowns.”

Just two days letter, Mr. Smollett reported to police that he received a threatening letter sent to the Fox studio where Empire was filmed. “MAGA” was written in red across the envelope, and the letter said, in cutout magazine letters, “You will die black fag.” It had a crude drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree. The letter contained a powdery substance, which investigators later determined to be crushed Tylenol.

Just one week after that, Chicago had such cold weather that the National Weather Service told people to protect their lungs by not talking or breathing deeply outdoors. In the early morning hours, a friend of Mr. Smollett called police to Mr. Smollett’s apartment. He had a noose around his neck, as captured on an officer’s body camera. The friend, who identified himself as a creative director from Empire, asked that the police turn the camera off, and they did so. Mr. Smollett reported that two masked men attacked him as he was on his way home from buying a Subway sandwich. He said they shouted racist and homophobic slurs, beat him, poured bleach on him, and put the noose around his neck. In a follow-up interview, he told police the attackers had said, “This is MAGA country.”

Notable figures rushed to support Mr. Smollett and denounce the alleged crime. On January 29, 2019, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted: “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”

Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted: “@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery. This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”

Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “There is no such thing as ‘racially charged.’ This attack was not ‘possibly’ homophobic. It was a racist and homophobic attack. If you don’t like what is happening to our country, then work to change it.”

When President Trump was asked about what happened, he said, “I can tell you that it’s horrible. It doesn’t get worse.”

Jussie Smollett at BET Awards

Empire creator, executive producer and honoree Lee Daniels, and one of the stars of Empire Jussie Smollett, on the red carpet for BET Honors. (Credit Image: © Cheriss May / NurPhoto via ZUMA Press)

Mr. Smollett soaked up the attention, released a statement through his publicist, did a concert in West Hollywood on February 2, and gave an interview to Good Morning America on February 14. During the interview, he was angry about people who doubted that “white supremacists” would be out with nooses in sub-zero weather, much less recognize him: “It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more.”

Mr. Smollett’s story fell apart. On January 30, Chicago police released an image from surveillance video of two men with their backs to the camera, who police said were persons of interest. Two weeks later, police detained the two, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, two brothers from Nigeria, but released them without charges. By February 16, CNN and other media reported that Mr. Smollett had hired the brothers to stage the attack.

Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo

Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo. (Credit Image: © Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune / TNS via ZUMA Press Wire)

On February 20, Mr. Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct. He turned himself in to police and was arrested and booked the next day. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a press conference that Mr. Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

Executive producers of Empire wrote Mr. Smollett out of the last two episodes of season five, “to avoid further disruption on set.” Mr. Smollett never returned to the show, and the series ended after season six.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson

February 21, 2019, Chicago, IL: Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks about the details of the arrest and charges of Jussie Smollett at Chicago police headquarters. (Credit Image: © TNS via ZUMA Wire)

In March 2019, a Cook County grand jury indicted Mr. Smollett on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct for lying to police about the attack. Mr. Smollett pleaded “not guilty” to all counts and not long after, Cook County prosecutors dropped all charges. This was widely criticized, and in August, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed Dan Webb as special prosecutor.

The trial began on Monday, November 29, 2021 in Chicago. Judge James Linn presided. Cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom. Jury selection took only eight hours.

In his opening statement, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury that Mr. Smollett was upset that a threatening hate letter that was sent to the Empire studio wasn’t taken seriously enough, so he concocted the fake hate crime by hiring two brothers he was acquainted with to attack him. One potentially damning piece of evidence Mr. Webb hinted at in his opening was that there is surveillance video showing Mr. Smollett and the two brothers — who worked with him on Empire — doing a “dry run” of the attack in the area the day before it allegedly took place. Mr. Webb also said the police never determined who wrote the hate mail, implying that Mr. Smollett could have sent it to himself.

Special Prosecutor Dan Webb

August 23, 2019, Chicago, IL: Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb takes the oath of special prosecutor during an status hearing concerning actor Jussie Smollett at the Leighton Criminal Court building, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019 in Chicago. (Credit Image: © TNS via ZUMA Wire)

Defense attorney Nenye Uche, who is black, told jurors in his opening that Smollett was a “real victim,” and that the brothers’ accounts are false. He painted the brothers as homophobic criminals, saying they attacked Smollett because they didn’t like him “because of who he is.” He said when the police searched the Osundairos’ home, they found heroin and guns.

Mr. Uche also suggested that a third attacker was involved. He said one area resident said she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Nenye Uche

Jussie Smollett defense attorney Nenye Uche, center, speaks with members of the press outside the the Leighton Criminal Court Building. (Credit Image: © Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune / TNS via ZUMA Press Wire)

On Tuesday, November 30, the prosecution called former police detective Michael Theis, who said he initially thought the actor was a victim of a homophobic and racist attack, and that police “absolutely” did not rush to judgment against him as Mr. Smollett’s defense attorney claimed during opening statements. Mr. Theis said about 24 detectives spent some 3,000 hours in January 2019 on what they thought was a “horrible hate crime.” He said they were pleased when they were able to track the movements of two suspected attackers using surveillance video, cell phone records, and reports from ride-sharing services. He testified that Mr. Smollett had said his attackers put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. He said the case had become international news and that “everybody from the mayor on down” wanted it solved, a reference to then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Police arrested Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo when they returned to Chicago from a trip to Nigeria. The men told Detective Theis that Mr. Smollett wanted to stage the attack because he was unhappy about how the TV studio handled the hate mail. Investigators checked out the brothers’ account — including that the actor picked them up days before the attack and drove them around the downtown neighborhood where he lived and talked about what would happen — and corroborated their version of events using GPS, cellphone records, and video evidence. Police found no evidence that the men were lying. “At the end of the investigation,” Detective Theis said, “We determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event.” The Osundairo brothers were released.

Jurors were shown surveillance video of the brothers buying supplies, including a red hat they told police Mr. Smollett wanted them to wear to resemble Trump supporters, and a piece of clothesline police said was later fashioned into a loop. Jurors also saw a still image from a video that the detective said showed Mr. Smollett returning home the night of the alleged attack, with the clothesline draped over his shoulders. The clothesline was wrapped around his neck when officers arrived, Det. Theis said, leading detectives to believe Mr. Smollett may have retied the loop.

Defense lawyer Uche suggested on cross examination that the brothers were homophobic, asking Det. Theis about a slur one of the brothers used. Detective Theis said there was a message containing a slur, but that he didn’t know if that makes the man homophobic. Mr. Uche also asked the detective if he was aware that one of the brothers had attacked someone at the TV studio because he was gay.

“One individual said it happened, but I don’t know that it happened,” Det. Theis replied.

Jussie Smollett Mugshot

Jussie Smollett (Credit Image: © Chicago Police via ZUMA Wire)

Mr. Uche asked Detective Theis about the police report that included a woman’s account of seeing a white man with a rope hanging from under his jacket. Detective Theis acknowledged that he saw that statement but did not send a detective to re-interview her. He said the woman had seen the man a few hours before the alleged attack and that “the rope was a different color.”

Mr. Uche tried to discredit the police investigation, suggesting detectives ignored possible leads. He also said a $3,500 check the actor paid the brothers was for personal training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not for carrying out the hoax, as prosecutors alleged. Detective Theis acknowledged that the memo on the check said it was for “nutrition” and “training.”

Muhammad Baig, the first officer on the scene after the report of the attack, said he asked Mr. Smollett if he wanted to take the rope off his neck and “he responded by saying that he’d like to take it off, but he wanted us to see it first.”

On Wednesday, December 1, Chicago police detective Kimberly Murray, who interviewed Mr. Smollett the morning of the attack, testified that he told her then that he had received a threatening phone call from a blocked phone number days earlier. He told her the caller made racist and anti-gay remarks. She asked for his cell phone, but he refused to turn it over. She said Mr. Smollett also refused to give the police his medical records or a DNA swab.

Detective Murray said Smollett told her he had been assaulted by two men — one white man wearing a ski mask, and another man he couldn’t see — as he was going home after buying a sandwich. She said Mr. Smollett told her the attackers said, “Empire faggot, Empire nigger,” to which he replied, “What the fuck did you say to me?” Their reply, according to Mr. Smollett, was: “This is MAGA country, nigger.”

Mr. Smollett told the detective he was struck twice in the face, knocked to the ground, and kicked in the back and ribs. She said he had said that he felt a tugging around his neck, and the attack stopped suddenly and the attackers fled. He found that a noose was around his neck. Detective Murray also testified that she had driven with Smollett and her partner to the scene the following evening; it was too cold to walk.

Jussie Smollett Enters Court

Jussie Smollett (blue suit, blue shirt, black mask) enters the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. (Credit Image: © Stacey Wescott / TNS via ZUMA Wire / TNS via ZUMA Wire)

The next witness was CPD Detective Robert Graves. He was assigned to the case with his partner, Detective Kimberly Murray, in the early morning hours of January 29, 2019. Detective Graves described two interviews they had with Mr. Smollett, at the hospital and later in an unmarked police car as they drove around to investigate the incident. He testified that he and Det. Murray handed over the case a couple of days later to Detectives Theis and Vogenthaler because they worked daytime hours and had more resources than night-shift officers.

During direct examination, Special Prosecutor Sean Wieber asked Det. Graves about his re-interview of Mr. Smollett on February 14, 2019, while the brothers were in custody at a separate location. He testified that there were inconsistencies during Smollett’s second interview about the race of the attacker he saw. Det. Graves said that Mr. Smollett initially said the attacker was “male white,” but on February 14, he said he was “pale-skinned.” Det. Graves said that he was troubled that Mr. Smollett “was now changing the story.” Det. Graves added that Mr. Smollett said, “I meant that he acted like he was white by what he said and how he acted.”

Det. Graves said he did not tell Mr. Smollett that the Osundairo brothers were in custody, but that Mr. Smollett concluded from the questioning that they had been arrested. Det. Graves said Mr. Smollett told him he didn’t know Olabinjo, but that Abimbola was his friend for about a year and personal trainer for three to four weeks. They hung out together and got along well.

Det. Graves said Mr. Smollett claimed that the attackers couldn’t have been the Osundairo brothers, because the brothers were “black as sin.” Det. Graves testified that Mr. Smollett had said he would cooperate and help find the people who attacked him. Det. Graves told the court that Mr. Smollett never told him he had met with the brothers in the days before the attack, nor did he say that he had driven around the area of the attack beforehand. Det. Graves also testified that Mr. Smollett had eventually provided police with redacted cell phone records, and that he later realized some of the redacted calls were between Mr. Smollett and Abimbola Osundairo.

At the end of direct examination, Mr. Wieber asked Det. Graves how many victims in his 30 years of working in law enforcement refused to provide a cell phone and medical records. He said “one,” and stood up to point at Mr. Smollett.

The prosecution called Abimbola Osundairo, an aspiring actor from Nigeria who had worked as a stand-in on Empire. He said he and his brother Olabinjo agreed to Mr. Smollett’s request because he felt indebted to Mr. Smollett for helping him with his acting career. He testified that he and Mr. Smollett spent time together, and became very good friends. “I would call him my brother,” he said.

Gloria Schmidt

Gloria Schmidt, attorney for Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, two brothers involved in the Jussie Smollett incident, speaks to the media at the Union League Club Tuesday, April 23, 2019 in Chicago. (Credit Image: © TNS via ZUMA Wire)

They went to clubs, a bathhouse in Boy’s Town, and smoked weed at Mr. Smollett’s apartment. Abimbola said Mr. Smollett trusted him enough to buy drugs for him, including marijuana and “mollies,” also known as ecstasy.

Abimbola testified that Mr. Smollett showed him the stick-figure hate mail he said he received at the TV studio. A few days later, Mr. Smollett sent him a text message asking to meet “on the low,” which Abimbola took to mean a private meeting about something secret. He said it was at that meeting that Mr. Smollett first asked him “to beat him up” and asked if his brother could help. “I was confused, I look puzzled,” Abimbola said, as Smollett “explained he wanted me to fake beat him up.”

Abimbola said that before the staged attack, Mr. Smollett planned a “dry run.” He drove the brothers to the spot where it would occur, and they decided the men should throw bleach on Smollett rather than an original plan to use gasoline. Mr. Smollett gave him a $100 bill to buy supplies. Abimbola told jurors Mr. Smollett told him to punch him, but “not too hard.” Once Mr. Smollett was on the ground, he was supposed to give Mr. Smollett “a bruise” and “give him a noogie” (rub his knuckles hard on Smollett’s head). Abimbola also testified that Mr. Smollett said a camera in the area would record the attack. Mr. Smollett said he wanted to use the recording to get publicity.

Abimbola recalled walking with his brother in the dark morning hours, during weather that he described as “colder than penguin feet.” When the brothers spotted Mr. Smollett at around 2 a.m., Abimbola followed Mr. Smollett’s earlier instructions and shouted, “Faggot!” His brother yelled, “This is MAGA country!” They punched Mr. Smollett in the face and threw him to the ground, put a noose around his neck, threw bleach on him, then ran away.

The next morning, as news of the alleged hate crime broke, Abimbola followed another instruction from Mr. Smollett, to text him a message that read: “Bruh, say it ain’t true. I’m praying for speedy recovery.” Abimbola testified that Mr. Smollett gave him a check for $3,500 and wrote on it that it was for a nutrition and training, but he said the money was also for helping to stage the attack.

During cross examination, defense lawyer Shay Allen asked Abimbola if he tried to get a $5,000-per-week job as Mr. Smollett’s personal security. Abimbola replied, “No, Sir.” When Mr. Allen asked if he told Mr. Smollett that he and his brother would testify at his trial unless they were each paid $1 million, Abimbola also replied, “No, Sir.”

Build Hate Crime Prevention

February 1, 2019 – New York City – New York LGBTQ communities rallied in solidarity with actor Jussie Smollett at Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan. (Credit Image: © G. Ronald Lopez / ZUMA Wire)

On redirect by Mr. Webb, Abimbola said he never thought Mr. Smollett would go to the police to report the fake attack as a real hate crime. He said Mr. Smollett told him that he wanted to use it to generate media attention, and that he himself has never lied to Chicago police.

On December 2, the State called Abimbola’s brother, Olabinjo Osundairo, who testified that Mr. Smollett wanted the brothers to douse him with gasoline and put a noose around his neck, that Mr. Smollett gave them a $100 bill to buy the supplies, and paid them with a $3,500 check. Olabinjo said Mr. Smollett told him he got hate mail at the TV studio in Chicago, “and he had this crazy idea of having two MAGA supporters attack him.”

Olabinjo believed the plan was to publicize the attack on social media, not to call the police. He and his brother decided to pour bleach on Mr. Smollett because he wasn’t comfortable with gasoline. He said Mr. Smollett wanted his brother to do the punching, and that it should look like he fought back. Olabinjo also contested the defense’s argument that the brothers were driven by homophobia. He told jurors he has nothing against homosexuals, and authenticated a photo of the brothers taking part in Chicago’s 2015 gay pride parade, dressed as Trojan warriors.

Olabinjo also denied a white person was involved, and denied that he and his brother wore masks or makeup to make them look white. Olabinjo told jurors he talked to police without a promise of immunity or under any sort of deal. He added, “It was simply just to get the truth out of what happened that night.” He testified that he and Mr. Smollett did not have a sexual relationship. Prosecutor Webb rested the state’s case.

The first witness for the defense was Dr. Robert Turelli, who testified that he treated Smollett after he went to a hospital early on Jan. 29, 2019, telling the doctor he’d been attacked, punched and kicked. Dr. Turelli said Mr. Smollett had some bruises and scratches, but no serious injuries.

When court resumed on Monday, December 6, Jussie Smollett took the stand in his own defense. He told the jury he met Abimbola Osundairo in 2017 at a club, where he learned Abimbola also worked on the Empire set. He said they did drugs together and went to a bathhouse, where they “made out.” He said they later did more drugs and had sex together. Mr. Smollett testified that he met Abimbola’s brother, Olabinjo, but that they didn’t speak, and Mr. Smollett never trusted him. He said Abimbola made it seem like they needed to “sneak off” when they were around his brother.

Brett Mahoney, a producer of Empire, had earlier testified that law enforcement was contacted about the alleged hate mail and that the letter was turned over to authorities. He said Mr. Smollett agreed to additional on-set security, but didn’t want anyone following him home, because it would be intrusive. Mr. Smollett testified that he thought the studio was suggesting too much security, such as wanting someone to drive him to and from the set. He said Abimbola Osundairo joked about becoming his security, but that he didn’t take it seriously.

Justice 4 Jussie

February 1, 2019 – New York City – New York LGBTQ communities rallied in solidarity with actor Jussie Smollett at Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan. (Credit Image: © G. Ronald Lopez / ZUMA Wire)

Mr. Smollett claimed that he wrote the $3,500 check to Abimbola for nutrition and training. Mr. Smollett’s defense lawyer asked if he gave Abimbola payment for some kind of hoax, and Mr. Smollett replied, “Never.” Mr. Uche asked again if he planned a hoax, and Mr. Smollett said, “No. There was no hoax.” Mr. Uche asked him if he gave the Osundairo brothers $100 to pay for supplies for a fake attack, and Mr. Smollett replied, “Absolutely not.”

Mr. Smollett testified that he had just returned from a trip and was walking home after buying a sandwich at around 2 a.m., when someone yelled a racist, homophobic remark. Mr. Smollett said he turned around to confront the person, who towered over him. Mr. Smollett stood to demonstrate for the jury how the man walked quickly toward him, then he pointed to his left temple to show where the man hit him. “I would like to think I landed a punch, but I don’t know if it landed,” Mr. Smollett said.

He said he slipped and they tussled on the ground for up to 30 seconds. Mr. Smollett said he saw a second person — whom he believes kicked him in his side — as the first attacker ran away. Mr. Smollett said he assumed the person who attacked him was white because he used a racial slur and shouted, “MAGA country!”

He testified that he noticed he had a noose around his neck as he returned to his apartment. Mr. Smollett said he removed the noose, but a friend who was at his apartment called police and told him to put the noose back on, so officers could see it. Mr. Smollett said he was upset police had been called, because he would never have called them. “I am a black man in America. I do not trust the police,” Mr. Smollett said. “I am also a well-known figure at that time and I am an openly gay man.”

Mr. Smollett said that after the news broke, everyone — including Donald Trump — had an opinion about what happened, and that he hated the attention. “I’ve lost my livelihood,” he added.

Under cross-examination on Tuesday, December 7, Mr. Smollett said that a few days before the alleged attack, he picked up Abimbola Osundairo in his car to go work out and that Olabinjo came along. Mr. Smollett denied the brothers’ earlier testimony that they drove around together — circling the area where the alleged attack occurred three times — as part of a “dry run.”

Abimbola ''Abel'' Osundairo

December 1, 2021: Abimbola ”Abel” Osundairo, one of the brothers connected to the alleged staged hate crime involving Jussie Smollett, and his attorney. (Credit Image: © Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune / TNS via ZUMA Press Wire)

Mr. Smollett said he refused to give Chicago police his cell phone because he valued his privacy. Asked by special prosecutor Dan Webb if he was concerned the phone would show several calls to Abimbola Osundairo, Mr. Smollett said, “No.” Mr. Smollett also testified that Abimbola told him he could get an herbal steroid that encourages weight loss but that is illegal in the U.S. He was to get it “on the low,” while he was on a trip to Nigeria. He claimed the text message he sent, using the expression “on the low,” was about the illegal steroid.

Mr. Webb asked about Abimbola’s testimony that Mr. Smollett recruited him for a hoax, and Mr. Smollett said it was: “Fully false, 100 percent false.” He also said of the Osundairo brothers’ testimony: “They are liars.” Mr. Smollett went on to accuse prosecutor Dan Webb of “misrepresenting the facts to the jury” and said, “There was no fake attack.”

Mr. Webb showed Mr. Smollett four messages that he sent Abimbola that night, while the actor was at an airport because his flight home to Chicago was delayed, but Mr. Smollett denied sending the messages.

Mr. Smollett also said he assumed his attackers were white simply because of the pale skin around their ski mask eyeholes and the racial slurs they used. He then said he “would never say they acted or sounded white . . . [because] that would be racist to say that someone acted white or sounded white.”

Mr. Webb noted that Smollett switched his description of the attackers to “pale,” to which Smollett replied that it was the “responsible thing” to change the description. He said, “I didn’t want to make the assumption that they were white. So I said, ‘Let me change that and just say that they were pale-skinned.’”

When Mr. Webb asked if Mr. Smollett believed describing his attackers as white would make his “fake hate crime” more legitimate, Mr. Smollett said, “You would have to ask someone who actually planned a fake hate crime.” The actor got upset when Mr. Webb asked him if “getting a few bruises” was damaging to his career. “Mr. Webb,” he replied, “I have a scar under my eye that looks like a bag for the rest of my life . . . . It’s absolutely a problem.”

Jussie Smollett Leaves Court

Jussie Smollett departs after a court appearance. (Credit Image: © Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune / TNS via ZUMA Press Wire)

During closing arguments, the defense suggested that the Osundairo brothers accused Mr. Smollett of staging the hoax because they don’t like him and they saw an opportunity to make money. Describing the brothers as “sophisticated criminals,” Mr. Uche said they staged the attack with money as their motive. When Mr. Smollett refused to hire them as bodyguards, they implicated Mr. Smollett in the crime, and demanded $1 million each not to testify against him at trial. “They did a scam called the blame the victim scam,” Mr. Uche said. Mr. Smollett’s lawyers also claimed that Chicago police rushed to judgment when they brought charges against their client.

In his closing statement, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said Mr. Smollett broke the law when he made a false report to police. Mr. Webb noted odd behavior by the actor, starting with his refusal to hand over evidence to help solve the crime. “Smollett didn’t want the crime solved,” he said.

“It’s just plain wrong for Mr. Smollett, a successful black actor, to outright denigrate something as serious, as heinous, as a real hate crime,” Mr. Webb said, “to denigrate it and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such horrible historical significance in our country.”

Over a course of two hours, Mr. Webb outlined an investigation that involved two dozen police officers and 3,000 man-hours that concluded with “overwhelming evidence” that Mr. Smollett was behind the attack. Mr. Webb told the jury, “Mr. Smollett went on that witness stand, took an oath to tell the truth, and made many, many false statements to you. . . . He lied to you as jurors.”

Jurors deliberated for two hours on Wednesday, December 8, without reaching a verdict. The returned to court the next morning to continue, and reached verdicts.

The Illinois disorderly conduct statue prohibits false reports to police, and Mr. Smollett was charged for each time he lied to police, for a total of six counts. After deliberating for nine hours, the jury found Mr. Smollett guilty on five counts. The verdict was not guilty on the sixth, which referred to Mr. Smollett telling detective Robert Graves on February 14, 2019 that he’d been a victim of an aggravated battery.

Following the guilty verdict, special prosecutor Dan Webb said at a press conference that he told the jury in his closing argument that Mr. Smollett “faked a hate crime and then lied to the police about it, and then compounded his crimes by lying to the jury during the course of this trial and insulting their intelligence.”

Dan Webb Announces Guilty Verdict

December 9, 2021: Special prosecutor Dan Webb comments after former Empire actor Jussie Smollett was found guilty on five of six disorderly conduct charges for allegedly giving false information to Chicago police about an alleged racial and homophobic attack in January 2019. (Credit Image: © Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune / TNS via ZUMA Press Wire)

Mr. Webb added, “That verdict was a resounding message by the jury that, in fact, Mr. Smollett did exactly what we said he did. . . . The true facts needed to come out, and we did it.” He said some detectives worked 36 hours with no sleep, and other officers “had to trudge through these communities” locating film footage from doorbell security cameras. “What they did on this case was extraordinary police work,” he said.

Mr. Webb added that although Mr. Smollett committed perjury, he said that when someone is convicted by a jury, perjury charges do not normally follow, “but I’m not going to predict what’s going to happen here.” As for the count on which the jury found Mr. Smollett not guilty, Mr. Webb said, “The sixth count was two weeks later. . . . It was not that significant to our case.”

The disorderly conduct charges are class-four felonies, carrying sentences of up to three years in prison. Mr. Smollett could be put on probation and ordered to perform community service, or he may go to prison. The judge may take into consideration Mr. Smollett’s prior criminal infraction, from 14 years ago: misdemeanor driving under the influence, driving without a license, and making false statements to police when he claimed to be his brother. He pleaded no contest.

Mr. Smollett will soon have to defend against a lawsuit by the City of Chicago. In 2019, Chicago officials sued Mr. Smollett to recoup more than $130,000 in costs for investigating the fake hate crime, but the suit was stayed until the resolution of the criminal case. On December 10, the city announced it would proceed: “While using a different standard of proof, the jury’s finding of guilt convicting Jussie Smollett of criminal charges stemming from the incident confirms that the City was correct in bringing its civil lawsuit.”

Mr. Smollett will remain free on bond as he awaits sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled. The judge will hear pre-sentencing motions before January 27, 2022, when Mr. Smollett must return to court, and the sentencing date will probably be set at that time.