CHICAGO – The twists and quirks of the legal saga surrounding Jussie Smollett’s claim in 2019 that he was the target of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago culminated in a week-long trial, which ended. ended with a jury convicting Smollett on five counts of disorderly conduct. Smollett was acquitted on a sixth count.
The first charges in February 2019 which accused the former actor of “Empire” of having faked the assault were dismissed shortly after. But in February 2020, after a special prosecutor reviewed the case, a new six-count indictment was filed.
Here is a look at the charges that Cook County jurors have heard from:
WHAT ARE THE CHARGES AGAINST SMOLLETT?
The 39-year-old has been charged under the Illinois Disorderly Conduct Act, which covers a wide range of offenses, from prank 911 calls to harassing calls as a debt collector.
He faced six counts of misconduct under a paragraph of the law that prohibits false reporting to police. Some states do not categorize false police reports as disorderly conduct.
The charges have been listed as Class 4 felonies, which are among the less serious felonies in Illinois. But convictions can still carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
Although Smollett was convicted on five of the six charges on Thursday, his lack of criminal history and the fact that no one was seriously injured make time behind bars unlikely. It is more likely that a judge will sentence him to probation and perhaps order him to do community service.
“I would be shocked if he spent a day in jail,” said Andrew Weisberg, a Chicago-based criminal lawyer and former Cook County district attorney.
WHY IS IT UNIQUE FOR SUCH FEES TO BE APPLIED?
The Smollett case was certainly unique in the way it involved a star actor and in its sensational claims and counterclaims – first by Smollett, who is black and gay, that he was under attack, then by the police that he had made it all up. .
While this was one of the most significant cases of disorderly conduct in Illinois history, it is not the only one of its kind that has caused a stir in the news.
A Canadian, Robert Spearing, was charged with disorderly conduct in 2011 after Chicago police said he lied about being beaten and stealing tickets to an Oprah Winfrey show. He concocted the story, even cutting his forehead with a stone, to hide from his wife that he had never had tickets. He pleaded guilty and did not go to jail.
Charges of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report are not uncommon and are sometimes linked to insurance fraud. Last month, a man in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton was charged with disorderly driving for allegedly lying to police that he was robbed in a parking lot at gunpoint.
Weisberg says those who lie in the first reports to police often recant quickly and often go unindicted if they pick them up immediately. After the police accused him of lying, Smollett doubled down and insisted it was all true.
One of the hallmarks of Smollett’s case is that it went to trial, Weisberg added. In many cases, those accused of lying to the police seek a plea deal or plead guilty without a deal.
WHY ARE SIX COUNTING AGAINST SMOLLETT FOR THE SAME INCIDENT?
Each count of disorderly conduct represents a case from January 29, 2019, and then February 14, 2019, in which Smollett allegedly lied to police.
Chief 1 accused him of telling Chicago Police Officer Muhammed Baig at around 2:45 a.m., about 45 minutes after the alleged attack, that he was the victim of a hate crime. He said two assailants put a rope around his neck. Count 2 referred to Smollett telling the same officer he had been a victim of a battery, describing assailants beating him and pouring bleach on him.
Charges 3 and 4 stem from Smollett making the same allegations but to another officer, Kimberly Murray, later in the morning, just before 6 a.m.
Count 5 accused Smollett of telling Murray again at around 7.15pm that he had been the victim of a battery. Count 6 was referring to Smollett reporting on February 14, 2019 to Detective Robert Graves that he had been the victim of an aggravated battery.