US actor Jussie Smollett has been found guilty of lying to police when he claimed to be a victim of a racist and homophobic assault at his trial this week. Smollett has stood by his denials that he staged the attack himself even as prosecutors said he “lied for hours” on the stand as he repeated his reports to the Chicago police.
On Thursday 9 December, Smollett was found guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct, each count of which usually carries up to three years in prison. A sentencing date is yet to be scheduled, but taking into account his previous clean conviction sheet experts have said he is likely to receive a light sentence or probation.
The jury reached their decision after a day of deliberations. The original incident that led to the conviction happened almost three years ago, in January 2019, when Jussie Smollett placed his first police report. He claimed he was the victim of an attack in which racist and homophobic slurs were shouted.
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police he was set upon by two assailants who shouted slurs, yelled a Trump slogan, dumped a “chemical substance” on him and tied a noose around his neck while he was walking late at night in Chicago. The police force opened an investigation into the attack, but the next month they charged Smollett with filing a false police report, alleging he staged the attack himself.
He faced a total of six charges, each referring to different instances in which he was accused of lying to police. He was found guilty of five of the six charges, meaning that the last one had not been proven in court. At trial, jurors heard from brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who said Smollett had orchestrated the attack himself and paid them $3,500 (£2,600) to carry it out.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb lashed out at Jussie Smollett in his closing arguments. “Besides being against the law, it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country,” Mr Webb said.
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