The discussion in the case of Jussie Smollett, the actor convicted this Thursday of falsely denouncing that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, has revolved around whether the actor will be sentenced to prison when he is sentenced in several weeks.
Daniel K. Webb, the special counsel who handled the case, said Friday that he had not yet decided what recommendation he would make to the judge, but he again emphasized how serious he thought the case was. Webb has pointed out in various settings the social damage caused by faking a hate crime, the waste of police resources expended on the case, and the consequences of lying to a jury, which found Smollett guilty after spending seven hours. on the witness stand standing next to his account.
“It’s fair to say that Mr. Smollett is not at all sorry,” Webb said. “And he doubled over during our trial. I will emphasize those issues as I should. “
But some experts said they would be surprised if Mr. Smollett was jailed because he was convicted of the lower level felony and has no prior felony convictions.
Smollett’s lead attorney, Nenye Uche, a former prosecutor who said her client planned to appeal the verdict, echoed that sentiment Thursday.
“I’ve never seen a case like this where the person has been incarcerated,” he said. “And he shouldn’t because he’s innocent.”
Mr. Smollett was convicted of five counts of disorderly conduct, which carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Even Webb has acknowledged that those charges don’t often lead judges to jail people.
But he said: “There has never been a case like this. I am not aware of any case in Illinois that involves this criminal misconduct and misleading the police for weeks about a hate crime and then aggravating it by lying to a jury. “
Judge James B. Linn, who is presiding over the case, has the option of sentencing the defendant to probation or a shorter term in prison. On Thursday he agreed to release Mr. Smollett while awaiting sentencing.
“What I could see is probation with a ton of community service hours,” said Michael O’Meara, a criminal defense attorney who has also worked as a prosecutor, “and just to goad him a little bit, maybe some jail time. “.
The judge will certainly consider Mr. Smollett’s previous criminal offense, although it was 14 years ago and is relatively minor. He was convicted in California of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence, making false statements to police, and driving without a license. (Mr. Smollett did not come out in opposition).
In this case, it was Mr. Smollett who reported a crime, an attack by two assailants who, he said, beat him, yelled racist and homophobic insults at him, put a rope around his neck, and bleach his clothes at first glance. morning time. robbery on a frigid day in 2019. But two brothers told police that Mr. Smollett had ordered them to carry out the attack, and ultimately a grand jury charged him with lying to police, a hoax that, according to prosecutors, it had been orchestrated for publicity.
Understanding the Jussie Smollett trial
In addition to his sentencing, Mr. Smollett will soon have to deal with a lawsuit against him by the City of Chicago. In 2019, Chicago officials, upset at the amount of police work that was expended on the case, sued Smollett to recover more than $ 130,000 in costs, but it was stayed until resolution of the criminal case.
“The city intends to continue its lawsuit to hold Smollett accountable for its illegal actions,” attorneys for the city of Chicago said in a statement Friday, “and to demand that it compensate the city for costs incurred by the Chicago Police Department. that he took his false claims of harm seriously. “
The verdict in the case sparked reactions Friday from people across the country and across the political spectrum.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, told TMZ that Smollett still has the full support of her organization. She said in a previous statement that she could not believe the police about Mr. Smollett, whom she described as a “black man who has been bold, visible and vocal in the fight for the freedom of blacks.”
David Axelrod, a political commentator with long-standing Chicago connections who was a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Smollett had “inexcusably slandered our city to advance his career.” Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, and Mercedes Schlapp, who was director of strategic communications in the Trump White House, guilty Democratic politicians, including President Biden, for believing Mr. Smollett in the first place and for sending messages of support.
At a press conference on Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, noted that former President Donald J. Trump had also called the attack “horrible” shortly after it occurred. But he acknowledged that bogus hate crime allegations “divert valuable police resources from important investigations” and “make it difficult for real victims to come forward and be believed.”
Sarah Bahr contributed reporting. Kirsten Noyes contributed research.