Jussie Smollett, Janet
Actor Jussie Smollett, center, departs with his mother Janet, second from left, from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Chicago. Nam Y. Huh/AP

Empire star Jussie Smollett was found guilty Thursday on five out of six charges of lying to authorities about his role in orchestrating a phony hate crime against himself three years ago.

Smollett was charged with six felony disorderly conduct charges for making what prosecutors said was a false police report, with one count for each time he gave a report to three different officers.

The class 4 felony carried a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts said if Smollett was found guilty, he'd likely avoid jail time and get probation.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche said after the verdict that his team is planning to appeal.

“The verdict is inconsistent,” Uche said. “You can’t say Jussie is lying and say Jussie is not lying for the same exact incidents."

“We feel 100% confident that this case will be won on appeal," he added. "Unfortunately, that’s not a route we wanted, but sometimes that’s the route you have to take to win.”

The jury acquitted Smollett on the sixth count, in which he was charged with submitting a false report to a detective claiming to be a victim of aggravated assault.

Smollett told Chicago police officers that on Jan. 29, 2019, he had been targeted by two white men in ski masks who wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an "unknown substance" on him around 2 a.m. The assailants shouted, "This is MAGA country," an apparent reference to former President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, before taking off, he said.

Jussie Smollett, Dan Webb
In this courtroom sketch, special prosecutor Dan Webb, left, cross examines actor Jussie Smollett Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Cheryl Cook) Cheryl Cook/AP


News of the attack quickly grabbed the national spotlight, with celebrities and politicians rallying behind the openly gay actor.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who at the time was a presidential candidate, called it a "modern-day lynching."

The incident put intense pressure on the Chicago Police Department to find the culprits. But as the investigation deepened, a different narrative soon started to emerge.

Smollett was accused of being the mastermind who staged the hoax to bolster his career, recruiting and paying Nigerian brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo $3,500 to carry out a phony attack, authorities said.

Smollett was initially charged with disorderly conduct, but Cook County prosecutors abruptly dropped the case a month later with little explanation.

After intense public outcry, a judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.


Attorney Dan Webb and his team convened a special grand jury that brought up Smollett on six felony disorderly conduct charges.

During closing arguments, Smollett's defense attorney Nenye Uche called the two Nigerian brothers who claimed Smollett paid them to beat him up "sophisticated liars" and argued the prosecution's case was "built like a house of cards."

Jussie Smollett Trial
Abimbola Osundairo, walks through the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse courtroom after a lunch break in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Chicago. Osundairo is expected to testify in the trial of Smollett who is accused of lying to police when he reported he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago nearly three years ago, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Webb countered that Smollett lacked credibility and called the evidence against him "overwhelming."

"Besides being against the law, it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as a real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country," he said.

The trial's most compelling testimony came from Smollett himself, who vehemently denied designing the attack and told jurors "what happened to me happened."

The actor and R&B singer spent two days on the stand directly rebutting sworn statements by the Osundairo brothers that he paid them not only to carry out the attack but also to go for a "dry run" two days ahead of the incident.

The siblings claimed Smollett came up with the hate hoax because he was upset that his Empire bosses did not pay enough attention to the hate mail he received on the set. The MAGA slogan had been scrawled on a letter that included a drawing of a stick figure hanging by a noose.

The 39-year-old actor told jurors that the only thing he was upset with was studio executives trying to saddle him with extra security, which he didn't want.


As for the $3,500 check he wrote to Abimbola Osundairo, Smollett said it was for meal and workout plans because he was trying to get in shape for a music video.

Smollett's defense team suggested that the Osundairos attacked him because they are homophobic and their ultimate goal was to shake the actor down for $1 million apiece in exchange for their silence.

Smollett, though, testified he had a sexual relationship with one of the brothers, despite denials from Abimbola Osundairo that the two were ever romantically involved.

Smollett said he met Abimbola Osundairo at a Chicago nightclub in 2017. He said the two did drugs together and on a couple of occasions went to a Boystown bathhouse, where Smollett said they "made out."

He testified that over time, the men did more drugs together, including cocaine and marijuana, and participated in sexual acts.

His comments were a direct contradiction of what Abimbola Osundairo told jurors under oath last week.

Smollett said Abimbola Osundairo, who also worked on Empire, introduced him to his brother but that they didn't speak and "he kind of freaked me out."

Jussie Smollett, from left, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Lee Daniels, Sanaa Hamri and Ilene Chaiken participate in the
Jussie Smollett, from left, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Lee Daniels, Sanaa Hamri and Ilene Chaiken participate in the "Empire" panel during the FOX Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

The actor testified he never trusted Olabinjo Osundairo and that he and Abimbola Osundairo had to "sneak off" when they were around his brother.

Smollett's testimony was seen by some as an attempt to suggest the brothers carried out the attack for reasons other than the alleged attempt by the entertainer to fake it to get the attention of bigwigs on his television show.

In one of the trial's more bizarre moments, the defense asked for a mistrial, which was denied, after attorney Tamara Walker claimed Judge James Linn "lunged" at her.

The defense also accused Linn of showing bias after he cut off questioning about the homophobic language used by one of the brothers.

Though the charges against Smollett only carried a three-month sentence, the hit to his reputation is likely far greater.


The actor was making $100,000 per episode on Empire when the alleged attack occurred. He was written out of the final episodes of season five of the show.

"I've lost my livelihood," Smollett told jurors.

He also testified that he didn't trust the authorities and was worried his career would suffer if he reported the alleged assault to authorities.

"I want to play a boxer, I want to play a superhero, I want to blow stuff up," he said. "The moment I got beat, I became a f***** who got his ass whooped."

Michigan-based civil rights attorney Jamie White told the Washington Examiner he was surprised the case even made it to trial.

"We have relatively benign accusations in the grand scheme of things," White said. "He's not looking at significant jail time. This is the kind of case that should have been resolved short of a trial. He could have come up with an explanation for his actions and moved on with his career. Now, there's international scrutiny. That's sad lawyering. There's some responsibility for intervention on the part of counsel."


White also said he was "flabbergasted" that Smollett's counsel didn't try to stop him from testifying.

"We are attorneys at law, but we are also counselors at law. If his attorneys have not persuaded him not to testify, it's really concerning," he said. "We are teetering on perjury up there, for him to make the sworn testimony he is making. I monitored a lot of it ... and it was just bizarre. While the client has an absolute right to testify, attorneys have an absolute ethical responsibility to advise their clients not to perjure themselves. It's a serious ethical consideration. This is getting close to the line, in my opinion."