Jussie Smollett found guilty of lying about racist homophobic attack

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A Chicago jury found that US actor Jussie Smollett lied to police when he claimed to have been the victim of a racist, homophobic assault.

At his trial this week, Smollett, 39, maintained his denials that he staged the hoax attack on himself.

Prosecutors countered that he “lied for hours” on the stand, repeating what he told Chicago cops.

On Thursday, he was found guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct.

The trial stemmed from an incident nearly three years ago, in January 2019, when the former ‘Empire’ star told police he was the victim of an attack.

Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that he was attacked while walking late at night in Chicago by two assailants who yelled racist slurs, yelled the Trump campaign slogan ‘MAGA,’ dumped bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck.

Authorities launched an investigation into the attack, but in February of that year, Smollett was charged with filing a false police report, claiming he staged the attack.

He was charged with a total of six counts, each of which related to different instances in which he was accused of lying to police. He was found guilty of five of the six charges, which means the sixth was not proven in court.

Jurors heard testimony from Nigerian brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who claimed Smollett orchestrated the attack himself and paid them $3,500 (£2,600) to carry it out.

Smollett explained that the check was for a meal and workout plan from Abimbola, a friend and extra on Empire, a TV show about a hip hop dynasty. When asked by his defence attorney if he paid the man for the alleged scheme, Smollett replied, “Never.”

He also testified that he and Abimbola had a sexual relationship prior to the alleged attack.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb repeatedly questioned Smollett about a “hoax” attack. Smollett denied the allegations each time.

“There was no deception on my part,” he insisted. “Any question you ask about that is going to be denied.”

Webb claimed in his closing arguments that Smollett forced Chicago police to expend enormous resources investigating the alleged crime.

“It is simply wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a true hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country,” Webb said.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, but Smollett’s lack of prior convictions may result in a reduced sentence or probation. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

After the verdict was read, Webb stated outside the court that “for Mr Smollett to get up in front of [the jury] and lie for hours and hours, that really compounded his misconduct.”

He called Smollett’s repeated lying during trial “unexpected,” and said it will be something he brings up with the judge during sentencing.

Nenye Uche, an American-Nigerian attorney who represents Smollett, stated that the team “obviously respectfully disagrees with the jury’s verdict” and is “100% confident” that the case will be overturned on appeal.

 Authorities believe Smollett sought to increase his public profile because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire. He claimed to be paid $100,000 per episode by the fifth season of the show.

During the controversy surrounding the alleged attack, he was eventually removed from the production.

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