CHICAGO (WGN) — A Cook County jury on Thursday found that former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett lied when he reported to police that he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in Streeterville in January 2019.
Smollett was found guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct, while he was acquitted of the sixth count. The 12 jurors reached the verdict after more than nine hours of deliberation.
The next hearing in the case is set for Thursday, Jan. 27. Given Smollett’s lack of a criminal history, there’s little chance he would be sentenced to any time in prison.
After the verdict was read, Dan Webb, the lead special prosecutor, doubled down on comments he made during his closing statement, where he flatly called Smollett a liar.
“This jury worked so hard and for Mr. Smollett to get up in front of them and lie for hours and hours and hours, that really compounded his misconduct,” Webb said. “Defendants do not have the right to go in front of a jury and lie under oath. Mr. Smollett would not have lost this case, as he did today, unless the jury found that he lied to them.”
Following the verdict, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement: “The Jury has spoken. While this case has garnered a lot of attention, we hope as a county we can move forward. At the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office we will continue to focus on the important work of this office, prioritizing and prosecuting violent crime.”
Nenye Uche, Smollett’s lead defense attorney, said that he and his co-counsels were “100% confident that this case will be won on appeal.”
Uche, while delivering the defense’s closing argument, countered that the prosecution’s star witnesses, Olabinjo and Amibola Osundairo, were themselves lying when they testified that Smollett recruited them to take part in a phony hate crime.
“They’re certified liars,” Uche said of the Osundairo brothers. “They lied to this court, they’ve lied to this jury.”
In the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019, Smollett reported to police that he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack near his Streeterville apartment. Smollett told police that he was targeted by two males who yelled slurs while one punched him in the face and another put bleach on him and a rope around his neck.
The reported attack quickly garnered international media attention, though it was also fodder for comedians and late-night television hosts.
Just weeks after he reported the attack to police, prosecutors approved disorderly conduct charges against Smollett.
Former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson lambasted Smollett, telling reporters: “How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”
However, those charges against Smollett were quickly dropped in late March, infuriating Chicago leaders. Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the decision “a miscarriage of justice.”
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin in June 2019 found that irregularities in the case warranted a special prosecutor. Toomin appointed Webb as special prosecutor in the case in August 2019.
A year later, Webb found “abuses of discretion” by the state’s attorney’s office, though specifics of his investigation remain under seal.
Webb brought the new charges against Smollett in February 2021.
And though the criminal trial has concluded, the Smollett saga will continue to play out in at least two other civil cases.
The city filed a lawsuit against Smollett in April 2019, seeking to recoup about $130,000 — the amount of money spent on overtime for CPD investigators who looked into Smollett’s initial attack claim.
That same month, the Osundairo brothers filed a lawsuit against former Smollett attorney Mark Geragos and current Smollett attorney Tina Glandian.
The brothers allege that the two attorneys made several defamatory statements. Both lawsuits are still pending in federal court in Chicago.
For breaking news delivered to you, subscribe to WFXR’s breaking news email list