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Illinois appeals court affirms actor Jussie Smollett’s convictions and jail sentence

Smollett had reported to police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing ski masks.
Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett at 2022 Atlanta Black Pride Weekend Film Festival- "B-Boy Blues" screening on September 3, 2022 in Atlanta, GA.Prince Williams / WireImage
/ Source: AP (Associated Press)

An appeals court upheld the disorderly conduct convictions Friday of actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself in 2019 and then lying about it to Chicago police.

Smollett, who appeared in the TV show “Empire,” challenged the role of a special prosecutor, jury selection, evidence and many other aspects of the case. But all were turned aside in a 2-1 opinion from the Illinois Appellate Court.

Smollett had reported to police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing ski masks. The manhunt for the attackers soon turned into an investigation of Smollett himself, leading to his arrest on charges he had orchestrated the attack.

Authorities said he paid two men whom he knew from work on “Empire.”

A jury convicted Smollett in 2021 on five felony counts of disorderly conduct, a charge that can be filed in Illinois when a person lies to police.

He now will have to finish a 150-day stint in jail that was part of his sentence. Smollett spent just six days in jail while his appeal was pending.

Lawyers for Smollett, who is Black and gay, have publicly claimed he was the target of a racist justice system and people playing politics.

Appellate Judge Freddrenna Lyle said she would have thrown out Smollett’s convictions. Lyle said it was “fundamentally unfair” to appoint a special prosecutor and charge Smollett when he had already performed community service as part of a 2019 deal with Cook County prosecutors to drop the initial charges.

“It was common sense that Smollett was bargaining for a complete resolution of the matter, not simply a temporary one,” Lyle said.

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett speaks to Judge James Linn after his sentence is read on March 10, 2022 in Chicago, IL.Brian Cassella / Tribune News Service via Getty Images