Jussie Smollett, a professional actor of middling renown, was convicted Thursday on multiple counts of disorderly conduct for staging a hate crime against himself in January 2019. A Chicago jury deliberated nearly 10 hours before finding Smollett guilty on five of six counts related to the phony attack he paid two Nigerian brothers to carry out in an effort to garner sympathy and boost his public profile.
The staged attack was initially successful, as dozens of Democratic politicians and prominent celebrities immediately and credulously believed Smollett’s ludicrous account of being recognized on the streets of Chicago by two white guys in “Make America Great Again” hats, and targeted because of his race and sexual orientation.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who had recently announced her campaign for president, was among those who condemned the “attempted modern-day lynching” of the C-list celeb. Television host Andy Cohen urged police to “CATCH THESE EVIL HOMOPHOBES AND LOCK THEM UP FOREVER.” Many of these public comments have yet to be deleted.
Prosecutors approved charges of disorderly conduct against Smollett several weeks after the incident in light of overwhelming evidence that the attack had been staged. Those charges were subsequently dropped, however, after Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen, reached out to Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx. Smollett was indicted again on similar charges in February 2020 amid widespread public anger at Foxx’s handling of the case.
Smollett, best known for his role in The Mighty Ducks, could face several years in prison as a result of his conviction, but most observers expect probation to be the most likely outcome. If that’s the case, we can all look forward to the actor’s inevitable quest to rehabilitate his career despite never accepting responsibility for his actions. Smollett maintained his innocence throughout the trial. One of his attorneys had previously suggested that the Nigerian brothers, whom Smollett had paid with a $3,500 check, had worn “whiteface” during the fake assault.
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