In 2021, a panel of jurors found the erstwhile actor of ‘Empire’ guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct, alleging his orchestration of a racist and homophobic incident and subsequent falsehoods conveyed to law enforcement.
On Friday, an appellate court affirmed the disorderly conduct convictions of actor Jussie Smollett, who stood accused of masterminding a racist, homophobic episode targeting himself in 2019 and providing misleading information to the Chicago police.
Smollett, renowned for his role in the television series Empire, contested various facets of the case, including the involvement of a special prosecutor, the process of jury selection, and the admissibility of evidence. However, all challenges were dismissed in a 2-1 verdict by the Illinois Appellate Court.
Initially reporting a hate-fueled assault by ski mask-clad assailants, Smollett became the focal point of the investigation, resulting in his arrest on charges of engineering the entire episode.
Law enforcement alleged that he remunerated two individuals affiliated with the Empire production in Chicago, instructing them on the choice of derogatory language and to proclaim he was in “MAGA Country,” alluding to Donald Trump’s political campaign slogan.
In 2021, a jury handed down convictions on five counts of disorderly conduct, a charge applicable in Illinois for providing false information to law enforcement.
As part of his sentence, Smollett faces a 150-day incarceration, of which he served merely six days during the pendency of his appeal.
Legal representatives for Smollett, who identifies as both Black and gay, publicly contended that he fell victim to a prejudiced judicial system influenced by political machinations.
Holly Baird, spokesperson for Smollett, declared, “We are preparing to escalate this matter to the Supreme Court,” referring to the highest court in Illinois, also highlighting the lack of unanimity in the appellate court’s decision.
Appellate Justice Freddrenna Lyle, in the minority, expressed a desire to annul the convictions, deeming it “fundamentally unfair” to appoint a special prosecutor and prosecute Smollett after he had fulfilled community service in a 2019 arrangement with Cook County prosecutors to close the case.
Lyle emphasized that it was reasonable to assume Smollett sought a comprehensive resolution, not a temporary one.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb, tasked with investigating the case’s dismissal, led a grand jury to reinstate charges against Smollett in 2020. Webb concluded that there were “substantial abuses of discretion” within the state’s attorney office during the initial proceedings.
In the majority opinion, appellate Justices David Navarro and Mary Ellen Coghlan asserted that Smollett was not shielded from additional charges.
“The record does not contain any evidence that (prosecutors) agreed Smollett would not be further prosecuted in exchange for forfeiting his bond and performing community service,” they stated.