Jussie Smollett Convicted of Staging Hate Crime

Former “Empire” actor Smollett arrives at court for the first full day of his trial in Chicago
A jury found Jussie Smollett guilty of lying to police after staging a hate crime attack.
REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Out gay “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was found guilty on December 9 of lying to authorities when he said he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in 2019.

Smollett, 39, was convicted of five counts of disorderly conduct and acquitted on one count, concluding a tumultuous case that first emerged when Smollett went public in January of 2019 to say two men attacked him in a dramatic hate crime outside of his Chicago apartment.

Even more controversy surrounded the case when initial charges against Smollett were dropped, prompting criticism of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The actor was subsequently indicted yet again in February of last year.

Smollett received an outpouring of support in the immediate aftermath of the allegations — including in New York City, where folks stood outside in frigid temperatures to hold signs advocating for the actor. Authorities, however, started to learn more information during the course of their investigation.

Smollett had alleged that two men hurled anti-LGBTQ and racial slurs at him, taunted him with Trump-inspired rhetoric like “MAGA country,” poured a liquid substance on him, and placed a noose around his neck early in the morning on January 29, 2019. Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — who were once brought into custody upon returning to the US from Nigeria — told jurors that the attack was staged and that Smollett paid them to carry it out.

In yet another twist to the story, Smollett’s team tried making the case that the brothers were motivated by homophobia, prompting the brothers to deny that accusation by showing evidence that they participated in Chicago’s Pride festivities in 2015.

Smollett defended himself by saying he paid Abimbola Osundairo for fitness and that messages about a flight were related to Smollett’s desire to obtain an illegal steroid to give him a boost in his workout routine. Prosecutors also pointed to video surveillance footage showing Smollett and the brothers engaging in what appeared to be a “dry run” two days before the incident. The “Empire” actor said he was meeting with them for a planned workout.

Prosecutors argued that Smollett was motivated to plan the scheme in part because he was seeking a strong response from the leaders of “Empire.” Instead, he ended up getting written off the show as his controversy ballooned.

Smollett testified on December 6 that he met Abimbola Osundairo in 2017 and went with him to a Chicago gay bathhouse known as Steamworks on multiple occasions. The pair, he said, would consume drugs together and masturbated together at the bathhouse.

Smollett’s team also said the brothers tried to convince Smollett to pay each of them $1 million to buy their silence at the trial.

Jurors initiated deliberations on December 8 and reached a verdict on the evening of December 9. Smollett, who has yet to be sentenced, faces three years behind bars but will likely only face probation, according to multiple reports. He was released on bond following the verdict.

Smollett’s team showed no sign of defeat following the verdict. Nenye Uche, a defense attorney representing Smollett, said that his team was “100 percent confident that this case will be won on appeal,” according to WGN9 Chicago.

More from Around NYC