Empire’s disgraced actor Jussie Smollett will appear in court Thursday to be sentenced on charges of mounting a fake hate crime in Chicago in 2019.
Smollett, 39, was found guilty of lying to police by claiming he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, in what authorities say was an attempt to boost his acting career.
Smollett faced a maximum of up to three years in prison for each of the five felonies of disturbing public order, the charge brought for lying to police, for which he was convicted. He was acquitted of a sixth count.
Experts say his lack of extensive criminal record and the fact that the conviction was for a low-level nonviolent crime means a probation sentence is more likely.
The attack of January 29, 2019, and the subsequent development of Smollett’s story made headlines around the world.
However, police dropped the charges a month later and instead charged Smollett with disturbing public order for lying to police.
In December, Smollett was found guilty at trial after two brothers testified that the actor paid them $3,500 to carry out the attack, gave them money for balaclavas and rope, instructed them to form a rope with the rope, and then told them exactly what to shout to carry out the fake attack.
Police arrested the actor a month later saying he paid two brothers to stage the attack in an effort to raise his profile in show business. He eventually pleaded not guilty to six counts of disturbing public order.
Smollett, who knew the men from their work on the Chicago-based TELEVISION show Empire, testified that he did not recognize them.
Cameras will be present at Thursday’s hearing and Smollett is likely to speak, legal observers say.
Prior to his sentencing, Smollett’s supporters, including Samuel L. Jackson and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, wrote to the judge asking for clemency.
The Rev. Jackson said Smollett “had suffered enough.”
“He has been execrated and denigrated in the court of public opinion. His professional reputation has been severely damaged.”
The Chicago Police Department is asking for payment of more than $130,000 from Smollett after he worked “24 hours” to find the attackers.