Actor Jussie Smollett, renowned for his role in “Empire,” faces the prospect of returning to jail as an appeals court recently upheld his convictions associated with a 2019 hate crime hoax. The 41-year-old actor had been convicted in 2021 on five felony counts of disorderly conduct linked to an alleged racist and homophobic attack. This incident led to a 150-day sentence, of which he served only six days due to the pending appeal.
Throughout the legal proceedings, Smollett contested several aspects of the case, including the role of the special prosecutors, jury selection, presented evidence, and other facets. However, in a 2-1 decision from the Illinois Appeal Court, his convictions were ultimately upheld.
The saga began when Smollett, a California native who made his debut in the film “The Mighty Ducks” in 1992, reported to Chicago police in 2019 that he had fallen victim to a homophobic and racist attack perpetrated by two individuals wearing ski masks. However, the investigation soon shifted focus onto Smollett himself, resulting in his arrest on charges alleging that he orchestrated the incident, purportedly paying two men associated with “Empire” to assist in staging the attack.
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Smollett’s legal team argued vehemently, claiming their client was subjected to a biased justice system and political maneuvering. Appellate Judge Freddrenna Lyle expressed a dissenting opinion, citing the appointment of a special prosecutor and the charge against Smollett as “fundamentally unfair,” particularly since Smollett had already completed community services as part of a prior deal with Cook County prosecutors.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb welcomed the ruling as a “resounding and profound victory,” noting that dissenting voices in such rulings were not uncommon. He clarified that Smollett could petition for a higher appeal to The Illinois Supreme Court, emphasizing the discretionary nature of such appeals. If the Supreme Court opts not to review the case, it will revert to the trial court for the execution of Smollett’s sentence.
Despite the divided decision, Smollett’s representatives reiterated their commitment to contesting the court’s ruling, highlighting Justice Lyle’s detailed analysis in favor of Smollett. They affirmed their intention to escalate the matter to the Supreme Court armed with what they referred to as a “substantial body of evidence.”