The verdict is in. Jussie Smollett was found guilty in a criminal trial after he was accused of faking an alleged attack against him in January 2019.
The jury announced on Thursday, December 9, that the Empire alum, 39, was convicted of five out of six felony counts of disorderly conduct. The decision came after a weeklong trial in Chicago. He faces up to three years behind bars and a $25,000 fine.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to all six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly making false reports to police. He vehemently denied orchestrating or making up the attack.
Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, whom the actor knew from the set of Empire, testified during the trial that Smollett — who is Black and gay — ordered them to carry out a fake racist and homophobic attack against him to garner sympathetic media coverage.
When asked on the stand whether he discussed creating a “hoax” with the brothers, Smollett responded, “No.” He also claimed that he “never” gave them a check as payment for the supposed scam either.
The Mighty Ducks star alleged in January 2019 that he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago. “I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served,” he said in a statement the following month. “As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident.”
He added at the time: “Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
Authorities soon shifted their focus to Smollett, believing that he staged the alleged attack. Us Weekly confirmed in February 2019 that he was charged with making a false police report. The following month, he was indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct, to which he pleaded not guilty. In a controversial move, Cook County, Illinois, prosecutors dropped all the criminal charges against him in March 2019.
However, the Marshall star was indicted again in February 2020 on six counts for making false reports to police. His trial was subsequently delayed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.