Photo: Canadian Press
More than three years after Jussie Smollett told police she was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on a dark and cold Chicago street, all questions revolved around the actor—from whether he staged a fake attack to why he did such a thing. things — now in two: Will he admit that he lied to the police and will he be sent to prison?
On Thursday, three months after a jury found him guilty of lying to police, those questions will be answered when Smollett, once star of the television show “Empire,” returns to serve his sentence in the courtroom where he was found guilty of lying to police. . about the attack prosecutors argued he was self-regulating.
Smollett was convicted of five of the six felony counts of disorderly conduct – for lying to police. He was released on the count of six. He faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison per count.
Cook County Judge James Linn could order the maximum sentence, a much shorter sentence or put Smollett on probation, meaning he won’t have to spend time behind bars. And he can order fines and restitution — which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Defendants convicted of lying to police, one of the most serious crimes in Illinois, rarely go to jail. But this is a rare case.
Prosecutors pointed out Smollett, who is both black and gay, went to great lengths in January 2019 to commit a hate crime. He hired and paid two brothers to carry out the attack, prosecutors said, telling them racist and homophobic insults to shout, and shouting that Smollett was in “MAGA State,” a reference to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan.
The brothers testified that Smollett gave them money to buy ropes they would make a noose around his neck and ski masks to hide their faces. He then directed them to where he wanted the scene to play out in hopes that it would be caught by surveillance cameras.
By doing so, he stoked already raw emotions over issues such as race and sexual identity in the country, and sparked a massive investigation in a city involving dozens of officers in what Smollett said were very real attacks by two men who he doesn’t know. .
During the trial, Smollett’s attorneys and attorneys will have the opportunity to present witnesses and allow Smollett to make statements. And unlike the trial, Linn has agreed to keep photographers and television cameras in court for the trial – meaning the public will for the first time see and hear Smollett speak in court.
The key question is whether Special Prosecutor Dan Webb will ask Linn to sentence Smollett to prison or imprisonment. Webb, in an interview with The Associated Press, would not say.
“I think it will probably be the point I make in sentencing,” said Webb, “that Mr. Smollett not only lied to the police and wreaks havoc in this town for weeks for no reason, but then he complicates matters by lying. under oath.”
To get to that point, some legal experts say they expect Webb to call law enforcement officers to testify.
“Someone from the CPD (Chicago Police Department) was able to testify to how this crime had a direct impact on the police department, diverting resources from the actual crime and costs of the city,” said Joe McMahon, who as special prosecutor won the murder conviction for Chicago Police Officer Jason. Van Dyke in the fatal 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
McMahon and others also said Webb might call witnesses to testify about the impact Smollett’s scheme had on legitimate victims of racist and homophobic attacks.
“They can say that his (Smollett) false report makes it less likely that real victims will emerge and will continue to suffer in silence,” McMahon said.
Experts say it is almost certain that Smollett will speak. He was able to cover the same grounds as he did during the trial where he testified about his extensive involvement in charitable organizations, including groups fighting AIDS in the Black community. He might go back to talking about how he had been punished, that his career had been ruined.
Dan Smollett, who daily appears outside the courtroom of supporters who vouch for his character, has 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 his donations to charitable causes, his supporters have written to Linn asking for leniency: probation or community service instead of a prison sentence.
Smollett was able to admit that he carried out the attack and then lied repeatedly about it—including on the witness stand under oath. But his main lawyer, Nenye Uche, declared his client innocent after the trial and vowed to appeal, and has said nothing since to suggest he would reverse course.
Actually, Uche planned to file a motion to overturn the verdict, but the judge rarely granted the motion.
What will be added is all unknown. But some experts say they don’t think the judge will pass the maximum sentence or that Smollett will see the inside of the prison. But, they said, there was a good chance he’d be in the county jail for a few months.
“What he did was bad and lying about it was bad,” said Terry Ekl, a prominent defense attorney in the Chicago area who was not involved in the case. “And the fact that you’re dividing the community along racial and political lines that are already very divided, I think that puts this case out of the category of probation.”
“Coffee aficionado nerd. Troublemaker. General communicator. Gamer. Analyst. Creator. Total brew ninja.”