Appeals Court Upholds Jussie Smollett’s Convictions for Hate Crime Hoax
An appeals court on Friday ordered actor Jussie Smollett to serve out the rest of the sentence he received for convictions stemming from his 2019 hate crime hoax.
The Illinois Appellate Court upheld the convictions 2-1 after Smollett challenged the appointment of a special prosecutor, jury selection, and other aspects of the case, the Associated Press reported.
A jury convicted Smollett in December 2021 on five counts of disorderly conduct—which can be levied in Illinois for lying to the police—after authorities said he lied about being attacked by two Trump-supporting men in ski masks who targeted him for being black and gay.
It turned out that Smollett had paid two Nigerian brothers to stage the attack.
Smollett, known for his role in the show Empire and as a child actor in The Mighty Ducks, served six days of his 2022 sentence of 150 days in jail before he appealed his conviction.
His attorneys argued that Smollett faced prosecution for the same crime twice because he agreed to perform community service and forfeit the $10,000 he paid in bond when Cook County prosecutors dropped the charges against him.
A judge later overturned that deal, however, and appointed a special prosecutor for Smollett’s case, according to CBS News.
The court ruled that prosecuting him again was “not fundamentally unfair.”
Several Democrats believed the hoax when reports of it first surfaced in January 2019.
President Joe Biden said on X, then Twitter, months before he announced his 2020 campaign, that what happened to Smollett “must never be tolerated in this country.”
What arguments did Smollett’s defense team present in their appeal of the convictions, and how did the appeals court respond?
Er 2019 of staging a hate crime attack against himself in Chicago. He claimed that two men assaulted him, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck, all while shouting racist and homophobic slurs. However, evidence later emerged that Smollett had orchestrated the entire incident, allegedly as a publicity stunt to advance his career.
Following his conviction, Smollett was sentenced to serve two years of probation and to perform 250 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the city of Chicago to cover the costs of the investigation, totaling over $130,000.
Smollett’s legal team immediately appealed the convictions, arguing that his rights had been violated during the trial. They claimed that a special prosecutor should not have been appointed, as the original prosecutor had recused herself due to contact with a potential witness. However, the appeals court disagreed and affirmed the decision to appoint a special prosecutor.
In addition, Smollett’s defense team argued that the jury selection process was flawed and that the trial judge had made certain errors in allowing or disallowing certain evidence. Again, the appeals court found that these arguments lacked merit and upheld the convictions.
Prosecutors maintained that Smollett had intentionally made false statements to law enforcement and had staged the hate crime for personal gain. They presented evidence, including text messages and surveillance footage, that undermined his claims of innocence. The jury, after considering all the evidence, found him guilty on all charges.
In response to the appeals court’s decision, Smollett’s attorney issued a statement expressing disappointment and vowing to continue fighting for justice. They maintained that Smollett’s rights had been violated and that the evidence against him was weak.
This case has garnered significant attention, not only because of Smollett’s celebrity status but also because it touched on issues of hate crimes, racial tensions, and the credibility of victim testimonials. The fact that Smollett would allegedly stage such a hate crime hoax for personal gain has raised questions about the potential damage to genuine victims who may face increased skepticism as a result of incidents like this.
While Smollett’s legal battle may continue, the appeals court’s decision stands as a reminder that even celebrities are not immune to the consequences of their actions. The upheld convictions confirm that justice was served in this case and send a strong message that hate crime hoaxes will not be tolerated.
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