After nine hours of deliberations, a Chicago jury has found Jussie Smollett guilty of multiple counts in his years-long hate crime case.
According to Variety, the verdict was announced Thursday afternoon following seven days of testimony from 13 witnesses. Smollett, who is Black and openly gay, was accused of staging his own hate crime in 2019 and making false reports to police.
The 39-year-old actor claimed he was walking in Chicago at around 2 in the morning when he was attacked by two masked white men. Smollett told authorities the assailants had shouted racial and homophobic slurs before pouring a bleach-like substance on him and putting a rope around his neck. Investigators later identified the “attackers” as brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, two Black men who had known Smollett on a personal and professional level.
During the trial, the brothers claimed Smollett had paid them $3,500 to help stage the attack, and subsequently offered them $1 million each to publicly say they were not involved in any hoax. Smollett denied the allegations, and testified it was the brothers who requested the $2 million through their representative. The ex-Empire star claimed he never paid the Osundairos any money in connection to the attack. However, he claimed to have been sexually involved with Abimbola, whom he had met in 2017 before learning he was a background actor on Empire.
Prosecutors gave their closing argument on Wednesday, telling jurors there was “overwhelming evidence” that Smollett had orchestrated the alleged hoax. He highlighted Smollett’s false description of the attackers as well as his refusal to fully cooperate with authorities.
“Besides being against the law, it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country,” Special prosecutor Dan Webb told the court Wednesday. “At the end of the day, he lacks any credibility whatsoever.”
The actor’s attorney, Nenye Uche, pushed back on Webb’s claims, stating the prosecution’s arguments relied primarily on the testimonies of the Osundairos, whom he described as “certified liars.”
“The entire prosecution case was built like a house of cards,” Uche told jurors Wednesday, per the Chicago Tribune. “And we all know what happens to a house of cards when you apply a little pressure. It crumbles.”
Smollett was ultimately charged with six counts of disorderly conduct (Class 4 felonies) for allegedly lying to police. The jury convicted him of five of those counts, and acquitted him on the sixth. The first five were in connection to the statements he gave to authorities on the day of the alleged attack, while the last one pertained to statements he provided a couple of weeks later.
A date for Smollett’s sentencing hearing has not been announced. He now faces up to three years in prison.