A Chicago jury has handed down a verdict on former Empire star Jussie Smollett tonight, finding Smollett guilty of 5 (out of a possible 6) counts of felony disorderly conduct. Chicago police had accused Smollett of staging an attack on himself in January of 2019 and falsely reporting it to police.
Sentencing on the charges will follow at a later date, but Smollett could face up to $125,000 in fines and as many as 15 years in prison. (That’s split up over the five charges; the judge will decide if they run consecutively or concurrently.) The actor had previously testified in his own case, asserting that he had never lied to police, and denied allegations—including from two brothers who he had supposedly paid to help him do so—of staging the attack on himself.
Smollett originally reported that he had been assaulted by two men who shouted homophobic and racist slogans at him, before declaring that he was in “MAGA country,” tying a noose around his neck, and pouring bleach on him. Although Chicago PD initially pledged to investigate the assault, the department quickly began to question details of Smollett’s attack.
The two years since have been long and pretty damn circuitous, as the CPD first attempted to charge Smollett with 16 charges of disorderly conduct related to filing a false police report, alleging that he had staged the attack in an effort to get a salary increase on Empire. (Smollett was soon let go by the Fox series, which has since ended.) The Department dropped those charges against Smollett in 2019—but then a special prosecutor picked them back up in 2020, leading to this current trial.
Evidence at the trial included video that alleged to show Smollett and two men “rehearsing” the eventual attack; Smollett’s legal team is also being sued by Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, the two men who say he asked them to help him fake the attack.