Jussie Smollett will learn the fate after conviction for staged attack | Television

DON BABWIN Associated Press

CHICAGO — More than three years after Jussie Smollett told police he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on a cold, dark Chicago street, all questions revolved around the actor — that he staged a fake attack or why he would do such a thing – now comes down to two: Will he admit he lied to the police and be sent to jail?

On Thursday, three months after a jury found him guilty of lying to police, those questions will be answered when Smollett, a former ‘Empire’ TV star, returns to be sentenced in the courtroom. hearing where he was found guilty of lying to the police. about an attack, prosecutors argued he orchestrated himself.

Smollett was convicted on five of the six disorderly conduct charges – for lying to police. He was acquitted on a sixth count. He faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison per count.

Cook County Judge James Linn can order the maximum sentence, a much shorter sentence or put Smollett on probation, which means he won’t have to spend time behind bars. And he can order a fine and restitution, the amount of which could reach tens of thousands of dollars.

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Defendants convicted of lying to police, one of Illinois’ less serious crimes, rarely go to jail. But this is a rare case.

Prosecutors showed Smollett, who is black and gay, went to extraordinary lengths in January 2019 to stage a hate crime. He hired and paid two brothers to carry out the attack, prosecutors said, told them what racist and homophobic slurs to shout and yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country,” a reference to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan.

The brothers testified that Smollett gave them money to buy the rope they had to fashion into a noose around his neck and the ski masks to hide their faces. He then told them where he wanted the scene to take place in the hope that it would be captured by a surveillance camera.

In doing so, he stirred already strong emotions over issues such as race and gender identity in the country, and sparked a massive investigation in a city implicating dozens of officers in what Smollett argued was an attack. very real by two men he did not recognize. .

During the hearing, prosecutors and attorneys for Smollett will have the opportunity to call witnesses and allow Smollett to make a statement. And unlike the trial, Linn has agreed to leave photographers and a television camera inside the court for the hearing, meaning the public will be able to see and hear Smollett speak in court for the first time.

A key question is whether Special Prosecutor Dan Webb will ask Linn to sentence Smollett to jail or jail. Webb, in an interview with The Associated Press, wouldn’t say.

“I think it will probably be a point I will make at sentencing,” Webb said, “that not only did Mr. Smollett lie to the police and wreak havoc here in the city for weeks for no reason, but then he made the problem worse by lying under oath.

To drive home the point, some legal experts say they expect Webb to call law enforcement officials to testify.

“Someone from the CPD [Chicago Police Department] can testify to how this crime directly impacted the police department, diverted resources from the actual crimes and the costs incurred by the city,” said Joe McMahon, who as special prosecutor won a conviction for the murder of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the fatal 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

McMahon and others also said Webb may call witnesses to testify about the impact Smollett’s scheme may have had on legitimate victims of racist and homophobic attacks.

“They could say that his [Smollett’s] a false report made it less likely that real victims would come forward and continue to suffer in silence,” McMahon said.

Experts say it is almost certain that Smollett will speak. He could cover the same ground as during the trial in which he testified about his significant involvement in charities, including a group that fights AIDS in the black community. He could still talk about how he has already been punished, how his career has been devastated.

And Smollett, who has made daily appearances in front of the courtroom from supporters who have vouched for his character, has already received support from dozens of people, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the president of the NAACP. Reminding the judge of the actor’s extensive volunteer work and charitable donations, supporters sent letters to Linn asking for clemency: probation or community service instead of jail time.

Smollett could admit he staged the attack, then repeatedly lied about it — including on the witness stand under oath. But his lead lawyer, Nenye Uche, declared his client innocent after the trial and vowed to appeal, and has since said nothing to suggest he would back down.

In fact, Uche is considering filing a motion to dismiss the conviction, but judges rarely grant such motions.

What all of this will add is unknown. But several experts say they don’t think the judge will impose the maximum sentence or that Smollett will see the inside of a prison. But, they say, there’s a good chance he’ll land in the county jail for several months.

“What he did was wrong and lying about it was wrong,” said Terry Ekl, a prominent Chicago-area defense attorney who is not involved in the case. “And the fact that you’re dividing a community along already deeply divided racial and political lines, I think that takes this case out of the category of probation.”

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