Will Actor Jussie Smollett Be Given Prison Term for Filing False Police Report?

© AP Photo / Invision / Richard ShotwellIn this May 20, 2016 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the "Empire" FYC Event in Los Angeles
In this May 20, 2016 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the Empire FYC Event in Los Angeles - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.03.2022
In January 2019, the star of the musical drama "Empire" made headlines around the world after it became known that he was attacked by two men, who shouted racial and homophobic abuse at him. A subsequent investigation revealed that he actually paid the two individuals to stage the crime for the sake of promoting his career.
After three years of drama, actor Jussie Smollet's criminal case, full of twists and turns, is finally coming to an end this week as the actor is to face sentencing on Thursday.
Smollett's fans as well as celebrities such as Hollywood star Samuel L Jackson have written letters to Judge James B Linn asking him to show mercy and give the 39-year-old a lenient sentence. Here is a breakdown of the case and its potential outcomes.

January 2019 – 'This is MAGA Country'

Chicago police reveal they are investigating an attack on the star of the musical drama "Empire", who said he was reportedly attacked by two men wearing ski masks. The actor, who is gay and Black, says the alleged perpetrators yelled racial and homophobic slurs, beat him, put a noose on his neck and poured an "unknown chemical substance on him".
In addition, Smollett said that the attackers purportedly shouted "this is MAGA country", a reference to Donald Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again".
The news caused shock and anger in the United States and prompted an outpouring of support from across the globe, with numerous celebrities condemning the incident.
"This is about coming to the aid of another brother that has tasted the brutality of hatred and racism and bigotry", comedian Steve Harvey said back in 2019.

February 2019 – Arrest of the Perpetrators and Plot Twist

Police say they are using every available resource to find the criminals and two weeks after the alleged incident occurred officers arrest two men, but just three days after police detained the purported criminals, they announce that the trajectory of the investigation has shifted.
A few days later, Chicago police reveal that the two men were paid by the actor to stage an attack and file a felony charge against Smollett for filing a false police report, a claim he has categorically denied. Smollett is suspended from the series "Empire", with the show's producers saying the allegations against him are "disturbing".
The subsequent investigation reveals that Smollett payed Obabinjo (Ola) and Abimbola (Abel) Osundairo, who worked with him on the set of "Empire" $3,500 dollars to stage a hate crime attack so that he would receive media sympathy, which would boost his career. "We are not racist. We are not homophobic", the Osundairo brothers said. Police said officers found a cheque the actor used to pay for the hoax crime as well as to purchase materials used in the attack (rope and bleach).
Both men, who are Black themselves, voiced "tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation" and issued an apology to the African American community as well as to the victims of hate crimes.

March 2019 – Charges Dropped and Second Trial

The actor is indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct. Chicago police seek $130,000 from Smollett to cover the cost of the investigation. The actor pleads not guilty and soon all the charges against him are dropped. Officials say this was done in exchange for community service and $10,000 in bail.

"After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case…we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case", the Cook County state attorney said.

Smollett's lawyer said the actor was a "victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator".
The news raised eyebrows among members of the public and authorities in Chicago.
In August 2019, a special prosecutor was assigned to investigate how the case was handled and this resulted in new charges being levelled against Smollett. He was indicted on six charges, including telling police officers he was a victim of a hate crime and battery and repeating those claims to other law enforcement officials.
In December 2021, a jury of six men and six women found him guilty on five charges. The actor has maintained he is innocent.

Will Judge Hand Down Prison Sentence?

Although the case has received widespread media coverage, disorderly conduct charges for filing a false police report are not rare in the United States or other countries.
Andrew Weisberg, a Chicago-based criminal attorney and a former Cook County prosecutor, told USA Today that perpetrators often use false reports in order to commit insurance fraud.
In 2021, a Chicago man was charged with disorderly conduct after he lied to the police about being robbed in a parking garage at gunpoint. These individuals often make a U-turn on their claims and take them back or seek a plea deal, says Weisberg.
Jussie Smollett's case stands out because when police accused him of lying he continued to insist that his allegations were true.
Each of the five counts of disorderly conduct the actor faces carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, but lawyers are sceptical that he will be given a prison sentence.

"I'd be shocked if he spent one day in jail", said Andrew Weisberg

Other possible outcomes of the trial include: being given probation, community service, and covering the cost of the investigation.
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