CHICAGO (AP) — Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was convicted Thursday on five of six charges he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself nearly three years ago and then lied to Chicago police about it.
He was acquitted on one count.
The verdict came after a roughly one-week trial in which two brothers testified that Smollett recruited them to fake an attack on him near his home in downtown Chicago in January 2019. Smollett repeatedly denied the claims. The brothers said Smollett orchestrated the hoax, telling them to put a noose around his neck and rough him up in view of a surveillance camera, and that he said he wanted video of the hoax made public via social media.
Smollett called the brothers “liars” and said their account was “100% false. He testified over two days about being the victim of what he said was a hate crime, telling the jury ”there was no hoax.”
Abimbola Osundairo, who worked with Smollett on the Chicago set of “Empire,” and his brother, Olabingo Osundairo, also testified that Smollett paid them $3,500 for faking the attack. Smollett said the money was for meal and workout plans that Abimbola Osundairo was providing so the actor could be more toned for upcoming performances.
The Jan. 29 assault was reported to police, prompting a massive investigation that a lead detective said included some two dozen officers and 3,000 staff hours. The investigation — which included video from surveillance cameras, GPS and taxi and rideshare records — led police to the Osundairo brothers, who told detectives Smollett had staged the alleged hate crime.
Smollett’s defense attorneys argued that the brothers attacked the actor — who is gay and Black — because they were homophobic and didn’t like “who he was.” They also alleged the brothers made up the story about the attack being staged to get money from Smollett, and that they told him they wouldn’t testify against him if he paid them each $1 million.
The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said Smollett would likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.