Actor Jussie Smollett appeared in court in Chicago on Thursday, answering to new charges that he falsely reported and claimed to be a victim of both racism and homophobia. The actor put in a plea of not guilty when prompted by the court.
The 36-year-old Smollett reportedly appeared both quiet and serious, as he stood next to his attorneys. Assigned to Smollett’s case was Cook County Circuit Judge Steven Watkins. Last Thursday, a grand jury had returned a sixteen-count indictment again Smollett.
Subsequently, he was charged with sixteen felony counts, including disorderly conduct and allegedly giving police investigators false information about an alleged attack on his person. If convicted, Smollett could be looking at three years serving in prison, along with a $25,000 fine for each as well.
Last month, Smollett had been arrested and charged with felony disorderly conduct, stemming from the same false report in the indictments. He had told police detectives in January, that he had been attacked and beaten by masked individuals, stating they were President Trump supporters. He claimed after beating him, they yelled “this is MAGA country” and tied a noose around his neck.
When first brought to law enforcement's attention, the attack was indeed being investigated as a hate crime. However, several local news stations had early on cited their sources as saying that the focus was shifting to that of a hoax rather than a hate crime, as initially believed.
The Chicago PD has also stated they are doing an in-house investigation to see just how information regarding the alleged attack was leaked to various journalism agencies.
As for the evidence in the case, the prosecutors stated that Smollett paid two brothers, by check, $3,500 to help him stage the attack. They also presented evidence that Smollett gave his “attackers” $100 to purchase the rope, ski masks, glove and red baseball caps used in the attack.
Prosecutors believe the motive behind the staged attack was to advance Smollett's career and receive a higher salary. What really resulted is that Fox chose to cut Smollett's character from the "Empire" series.
Supporters of Smollett gathered outside the courthouse where he appeared and preceded to chant stating his prosecution was unjust.
So, what’s the verdict—you decide.
Will Smollett indeed go to jail for his allegedly false claims and reports?