On Thursday evening, an Illinois jury found former Empire actor Jussie Smollett guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct related to lying to police about being the victim of a racist and anti-gay hate crime.
He now faces up to three years in prison, though many speculate that he may receive probation and community service hours instead. A sentencing hearing will be set for a later date. Smollett is expected to appeal the ruling.
Prosecutors alleged that Smollett lied to Chicago police on January 29, 2019, when he claimed he had been victimized in a 2 a.m. attack while he walked to a local drug store to buy eggs. The actor alleged that two white men attacked him, pouring bleach on him and putting a noose around his neck while shouting, “This is MAGA country.”
The Osundairo brothers were caught carrying the rope and bleach on a security camera the night of the attack. Video footage also showed Smollett and the brothers driving around the area where the attack occurred about a week before it took place.
Prosecutors said that Smollett paid $3,500 to Abimbola Osundairo, his personal trainer, and Olabinjo Osundairo, Abimbola’s brother, to stage the attack. Prosecutors also said Smollett faked the attack to get a pay raise from his role in Empire and to receive greater attention for threats against him that he felt weren’t taken seriously by the show’s producers.
“In January 2019, Mr. Smollett developed this plan to create a fake hate crime, then reported it as a real crime to the Chicago Police Department,” lead prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury during closing arguments. Webb noted that Smollett had initially refused to help police by turning over his phone or submitting to a DNA test after the attack.
Smollett denied the charges. He said that he had paid Abimbola Osundairo $3,500 for personal training for an upcoming music video. He also claimed that he and Abimbola Osundairo had done drugs and masturbated together. However, Abimbola Osundairo denied that they had ever had any sort of sexual relationship.
Smollett also said that he initially refused to help the police because he didn’t want news of the attack to hurt his career.
Shortly after facing allegations of faking the hate attack, Empire dropped Smollett from the show.