Jussie Smollett is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday for staging a hate crime hoax, unless his lawyers can somehow get the case thrown out like they’ve been trying.
The former “Empire” actor is supposed to face sentencing in a Chicago court on March 10, CNN reported, after being found guilty in December on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for making false reports. Smollett told police that he was the victim of a hate crime in January 2019.
The 39-year-old actor’s attorneys are expected to argue before Judge James Linn at Thursday’s hearing, hoping to get the verdict thrown out or get their client a new trial.
According to CNN, “Smollett’s attorney Mark Lewis had filed a dozen arguments for the actor’s request last month.” The defense claimed it was “improperly prevented from asking questions of potential jurors during the jury selection process.” Linn had apparently ruled that he would ask questions while the defense and prosecution could not.
If Lewis and Smollett’s requests for a new trial are denied, sentencing in the case will take place Thursday.
Smollett was convicted of orchestrating an elaborate hate crime against himself and then lying to police about what happened. On a cold night in January 2019, Smollett said he was targeted and attacked by apparent Donald Trump supporters in what he described as an anti-gay, anti-black hate crime.
He said the alleged attackers were white males who yelled “This is MAGA country.” In reality, they were brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, both black men who knew the “Empire” star previously. They later said Smollett set up the “hate crime” and paid them to pull it off.
The Osundairo brothers said that they fake punched Smollett, poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck and used racist and homophobic slurs because the actor instructed them so do so.
Meanwhile, Smollett testified in his own defense and admitted he paid the brothers, but that the money was for “training advice and nutritional tips.” The “Empire” star also said he had a sexual relationship with one of the brothers. The brother denied those allegations.
The Daily Wire previously reported that Smollett faces up to three years in prison for the charges.
At least one legal expert predicted that the “Empire” alum will see some jail time to send a message.
“If it was me, I would give him a taste of jail time, and sentence him to 1,000 hours of community service in a year,” former Illinois Judge David Erickson told the New York Post. “If it’s jail time, it will be a year or less.”
Erickson predicted that the judge will consider Smollett’s “motivation” for orchestrating the hoax, which is believed to be a publicity stunt and a way to advance his career.
“I think [Cook County] Judge [Linn] will consider that he used racism and homophobia to promote his own career. If you’re going to give someone a harsher sentence, you have to look at his motivation,” the former judge said. “Why he did it now becomes the question in sentencing especially with a hate crime.”