The twists, turns, and oddities of the 2019 legal saga surrounding Jussie Smollett’s claim that she was the target of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago have culminated in an actual trial, which in its first full day of testimony on Tuesday enters.
Initial allegations, brought in February 2019, that accused the former “Empire” actor of committing assault, were soon tossed out. But in February 2020, after a special prosecutor looked into the matter, a new six-count indictment was filed.
Here’s a look at the charges to which Cook County jurors will hear testimony:
What are the charges?
The 39-year-old has been charged under Illinois’ disorderly conduct statute for a variety of offenses ranging from making prank 911 calls to making harassing calls posing as a debt collector.
He faces six counts of disorderly conduct under a subsection of the law that prohibits making false reports to the police. Some states do not classify false police reports as disorderly conduct.
The charges are listed as Class 4 offenses, which are among the least serious felonies in Illinois. But a conviction still carries a potential prison term of up to three years.
If jurors plead guilty to Smollett, his lack of criminal history and the fact that no one was seriously hurt makes real time behind bars unlikely. It is more likely that a judge will sentence him to probation and perhaps order him to do community service.
“I would be shocked if he spent a day in jail,” said Andrew Weisberg, a Chicago criminal attorney and former Cook County prosecutor.
How strange is it to bring such allegations?
Smollett’s case is certainly unique in how it involves a star actor and its sensational claims and counterclaims – first by Smollett, who is Black and Gay, that he was the subject of an assault and then by the police that he did it all. did .
Although it is one of the largest disorderly conduct cases in Illinois history, it is not the only one that has hit the news.
A Canadian, Robert Spearing, was charged with disorderly conduct by Chicago police in 2011 after he lied about being beaten up and robbed of tickets to the Orpah Winfrey Show. He made up a story by cutting his head off a rock to hide from his wife that he never had a ticket. He confessed his crime and did not spend time in prison.
Charges of disorderly conduct are not uncommon for filing false police reports and are sometimes linked to insurance fraud. Last week, a man in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police that he was robbed in a parking garage at gunpoint.
Weisberg says that people who do see the police in an initial report often back off quickly and often aren’t charged if they take it back immediately. After the police accuse him of lying, Smollett doubles down and insists that it is all true.
Weisberg said Smollett’s case stood out in the sense that it had to be prosecuted at all. In many cases, those accused of lying to the police want a plea deal without a deal or plead guilty.
Why six cases against Smollett for the same incident?
Each count of disorderly conduct represents an instance during January 29, 2019 and again on February 14, 2019, in which Smollett allegedly lied to police.
Count 1 accused him of responding to Chicago police officer Mohamed Baig at about 2:45 a.m. — about 45 minutes after the alleged assault — that he had been the victim of a hate crime. He said that two assailants tied a rope around his neck. Count 2 describes Smollett telling the same officer that he was the victim of a battery, beating the attackers and pouring bleach on him.
Counts 3 and 4 are when Smollett made the same claims but from a different officer, Kimberly Murray, later that morning – just before 6 a.m.
Count 5 accused Smollett of telling Murray again at around 7:15 p.m. that he was the victim of battery. Count 6 featured Smollett reporting to espionage Robert Graves on February 14, 2019, that he had fallen victim to an aggravated battery.
All three officers are expected to testify.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Jussie Smollett