Illinois Court To Hear Smollett Hate Crime Hoax Appeal

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett | Image by Prince Williams/Wireimage

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by the legal team representing Jussie Smollett, the former Empire actor who was convicted in 2021 on five counts of disorderly conduct after staging an assault and hate crime for publicity.

Smollett’s team is arguing that the actor’s conviction should be thrown out, claiming the conviction amounts to double jeopardy because the former actor had previously accepted a deal to surrender a $10,000 bond and serve community service in 2019 for the hoax.

In 2020, a grand jury renewed charges. Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail, repayment to the Illinois Police Department of $120,106, and a fine of $20,000, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Smollett was released from jail on March 16, 2022, after his legal team successfully argued to an appeals court that the actor should be released after receiving “threats.”

“Mr. Smollett has become the target of vicious threats on social media forums, which no doubt reflects the hatred and desire for physical harm towards Smollett that he may experience while incarcerated,” his legal team wrote.

Prosecutors in the case maintain that Smollett’s Fifth Amendment protections against double jeopardy were not violated on the grounds that the agreement he made at the time was not considered a prosecution. An appeals court previously ruled in favor of prosecutors and upheld the court’s conviction on disorderly conduct charges.

“Besides being against the law, it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country,” said special prosecutor Dan Webb during the trial, as reported by The Guardian.

Smollett initially reported to police that he was the victim of a hate crime, claiming that two men had assaulted him, thrown bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. He claimed the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA Country.” He also claimed the purported attackers used racist and homophobic slurs.

His claims unraveled quickly as police found inconsistencies in his story. Police discovered that Smollett had paid two actors to stage the attack, but not before Republicans faced backlash, as reported by Newsweek in an interview with former President Donald Trump.

“It’s a disgrace what happened,” Trump said. “He said MAGA country tried to hang him, that MAGA country was bad. And if somebody, if he were a Republican, if he were on the other side, he’d be in jail for 25 years for hate crimes.”

According to FBI statistics, only around 11,000 alleged hate crimes were reported in 2022, making up just 0.1% of the more than 7.7 million crimes clocked that year.

In Dallas, only 39 of the 110,341 crimes committed within Dallas’ city limits in 2023 were recorded as hate crimes, less than 0.04% of all the offenses logged that year, according to the City of Dallas crime analytics dashboard.

The Illinois Supreme Court has not set a date to hear arguments on the appeal.

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