Smollett jury convicts former 'Empire' actor, acquits on 1 charge

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett at Cook County's criminal courthouse this week. Photo credit Getty Images

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A Cook County jury on Thursday convicted former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett on five of six counts related to charges he staged a fake hate-crime attack on himself and lied to police nearly three years ago.

Smollett had been charged with disorderly conduct and accused of orchestrating the attack on himself early on Jan. 29, 2019 in hopes of generating publicity. The actor and musician, who is Black and openly gay, claimed two men jumped him in Streeterville and put a noose around his neck while they voiced support for then-President Donald Trump.

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx quietly withdrew charges against Smollett, but a judge appointed a special prosecutor, lawyer Dan Webb, who revived them and took the case to trial.

Prosecutors say Smollett hired two brothers to fake the attack. But the actor's defense team suggested the pair carried it out on their own.

The jury acquitted Smollett of one charge, a sixth count. The panel began deliberating Wednesday evening and spent nearly all of Thursday reaching its decision.

Webb said he accepted the task of re-examining the case after Foxx's controversial decision because there was a feeling in the community that the matter had gotten short shrift.

“I felt it was also important for the Cook County judicial system to get a trial. Whether we won or lost a trial was not the issue. What was the issue is that what Mr. Smollett had done in this city should be aired in front of a public trial where all the evidence comes out," he told reporters after the verdict.

Foxx's office issued a terse statement later Thursday: "The Jury has spoken. While this case has garnered a lot of attention, we hope as a county we can move forward. At the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office we will continue to focus on the important work of this office, prioritizing and prosecuting violent crime."

Smollett lead defense attorney Nenye Uche said the actor will file an appeal to overturn the verdict. "It's pretty disappointing, what happened, but we remain confident that we're going to come back and he's going to be vindicated."

Smollett took the stand in his own defense. Legal experts have said the 39-year-old Smollett is more likely to get probation and be ordered to perform community service than serve time behind bars. A sentencing date has not been set.