Appeals Court Delivers Its Decision to Jussie Smollett

Illinois judges uphold actor's conviction on hate crime hoax; he'll appeal to state Supreme Court
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2023 10:45 AM CST
Jussie Smollett Loses Appeal Over Hate Crime Hoax
Actor Jussie Smollett listens as his sentence is read at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on March 10, 2022, in Chicago.   (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

It's bad news for Jussie Smollett, the former Empire actor who was found guilty in 2021 of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about an alleged hate crime against him in Chicago. An Illinois appeals court on Friday upheld his conviction, and his five-month jail sentence, after Smollett had filed the appeal earlier this year, claiming that his due process rights had been violated by Cook County prosecutors—partly due to what Smollett's legal team said was the prosecutors not adhering to a binding nonprosecution agreement. Per CNN, Smollett also said "he was subjected to double jeopardy, took issue with the appointment of a special prosecutor, and argued his sentence was excessive, among other things."

Attorneys for the 41-year-old actor argued in the appeal that they wanted a new trial for their client, with a new judge. The appeals court didn't agree with their arguments, including regarding the double jeopardy claim. "No jury had been impaneled, no witness had been sworn in, no evidence had been introduced, and Smollett had not pled guilty," Justice David R. Navarro wrote in the court's decision. "Because none of these actions occurred, jeopardy did not attach to Smollett's first criminal prosecution."

The New York Times notes that Smollet only served six days of his sentence before being released in March 2022 on appeal. Dan Webb, the special prosecutor in the case, called the court's decision a "resounding victory for justice," per Variety. "We are proud to have prevailed in a case that, we believe, can help restore the public's confidence in the Cook County justice system. We hope this decision will reassure the community that our legal system is fair, just, and impartial." One judge on the three-judge appeals panel dissented, and a Smollett attorney tells the Times that the legal team plans to appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. (More Jussie Smollett stories.)

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