UPDATED: 6:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 9, 2021
Originally published on News One: June 24, 2019
A jury has found “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett guilty of staging a hate crime in which he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack nearly three years ago in Chicago.
The jury reached its verdict on Thursday after deliberating for more than nine hours following a trial that lasted nearly two weeks. Smollett was found guilty of five of six counts of disorderly conduct over accusations that he lied to police in Chicago about the alleged hate crime in January 2019.
Smollett was facing a maximum of 18 years in prison ahead of his verdict. However, there’s a better chance he gets sentenced to probation since he doesn’t have a criminal history.
Prosecutors argued that Smollett paid brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo to stage the attack. The two brothers testified against Smollett during the trial and corroborated prosecutors’ allegations. But Smollett, who is openly gay, took the stand in his own defense, maintained his innocence and described a sexual relationship with Abimbola Osundairo, an aspiring actor.
The jury began deliberating Smollett’s fate on Tuesday after more than a week of testimony.
There have been many twists and turns in the investigation, causing speculation to rise.
On Jan. 29, 2019, while walking to a Subway, two men reportedly yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the actor after he exited a restaurant, investigators told The Hollywood Reporter. They allegedly punched and poured bleach on Smollett while one of the suspects put a rope around his neck. As they fled the scene, Smollett told police they said, “This is MAGA country.”
From the beginning, the Chicago Police Department appeared to drop the ball with their handling of the case in the media. First, a police spokesperson said there was no footage of the assailants. Then, hours later, there were two “persons of interest” on video. They also claimed the “Empire” actor “refused” to give the cops his phone. All of these inconsistent reports have prompted some to say Smollett fabricated the attack.
Smollett has starred on Fox’s popular series “Empire” since 2015. He plays Jamal, a successful singer in the musical Lyon family who is openly gay. He is also the winner of four NAACP Image Awards and has a long history in social justice and activism.
Most recently, Smollett was the master of ceremonies and event chair for the Black AIDS Institute Gala. The December event raised awareness and funds for the epidemic that infects nearly 40,000 people a year.
“I just feel like Black lives matter and I have to care about black lives in all matters and all forms,” he told HelloBeautiful on the red carpet for the event. “I know there are so many things to care about in this world, but we have to multitask.”
In addition, he was recently in the news for supporting Bennett College—an all-women HBCU that was on the brink of losing its accreditation. The school—which was founded in 1873 and became a women’s institution in 1926—needed to raise $5 million by February 2019 to stay afloat. Smollett and his brother took it upon themselves to use their platforms to spread awareness about Bennett College and motivated individuals to pitch in and help save the school.
Nonetheless, there were still many questions surrounding the attack. And still, no one knows the truth.