Jussie Smollett conviction ‘racist’ and ‘unconstitutional’: Are his attorneys right?

Paul Beaty / AP

Fact Box

  • Jussie Smollett is an American actor and producer known for Empire (2015), the Mighty Ducks (1992), and Alien Covenant (2017).  
  • After being released from jail on appeal, defense lawyers critiqued Smollett’s sentence asserting he was “unconstitutionally charged twice” and argued the second case was “racist.”
  • As of March 11, 2022, Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail and ordered to pay $145,000 with 30 months of probation. Smollett was charged with six accounts of lying to the police on February 12, 2020, and found guilty on five accounts on December 9, 2021. 
  • Smollett staged a hate crime against himself in 2019 in order to allegedly promote his career; after being charged by Chicago police for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report, he was cleared of all charges in March 2019. The decision prompted backlash from Chicago police, President Trump, and Empire.

Curtice (No)

Jussie Smollett's attorneys claiming his conviction is 'racist’ is nothing more than a transparent and desperate attempt to get their client out of jail and regain the public sympathy he had when he initially perpetrated the hoax. They have thus far succeeded in accomplishing the former, but they will no doubt fail in the latter.

To review, Jussie Smollett faked a hate crime he claims was perpetrated against him by two White Trump supporters. He hired two Nigerian men to attack him in the freezing January temperatures in the middle of the night in downtown Chicago, where he claimed these 'perpetrators' yelled, 'This is MAGA Country.' While Chicago may be many things, 'MAGA Country' certainly isn't one of them.

The two men Smollett hired confessed their involvement during the trial, having known each other previously. Both men testified Smollett directed them and paid them by check to stage the attack in an attempt to get media attention. Footage shows the three men staging the attack the night before. The phony attack predictably gained national media attention and much sympathy for Smollett. His Hollywood friends, those in the entertainment and news media, and VP Harris automatically condemned the 'attack,' expressing sympathy and support for Smollett well before any facts were established.

Smollett staged the attack to get media attention. He got his wish, but ultimately not the type of attention he was expecting. There is no evidence anywhere that his conviction is racist or unconstitutional. He faked a hate crime, got caught, and was convicted—a conviction wholly supported by evidence

None of this is complicated, racist, or unconstitutional. Given the time, effort, and resources expended by Chicago police and prosecutors—resources that could have been used for more productive purposes like investigating Chicago's rising homicides—he got what he deserved.

Siam (Yes)

There is no question that Jussie Smollet made up a phony homophobic and racist attack against him in Chicago in the winter of 2019. However, he was convicted late last year of lying to the police about the attack and was recently sentenced to 15 months in prison. His defenders argue that his conviction was racist and unconstitutional—and while Smollet did lie to the police about the phony crime, one can argue that his recent sentencing was not just. In 2019, the Cook County State Attorney's office did officially dismiss the alleged false report filing by Smollet—so the obvious question is how can a person in the US be tried for the same crime twice? That causes many to ponder whether Smollett's trial in December 2021 was unconstitutional. A special prosecutor did state that Smollet was brought up on new charges, but at the trial, it was a rehash of the exact charges that were presented to the Cook County State Attorney.

Additionally, Smollet was charged with a felony conviction for a nonviolent crime, 150 days incarceration with 30 months of felony probation, and all for lying about a crime that never happened. And worse, during the jury selection, no gay and black panelists were selected from the pool.

Surely, this sentencing is harsh and way beyond what other defendants have received for similar crimes. Amy Cooper, a White female who called the cops on a Black birdwatcher and made a false crime report, was only given an education course, and all charges dropped. The disparate treatment for Black males who have committed nonviolent crimes is obvious in the criminal justice system. His lawyers believe that Jussie Smollet was punished unfairly only because he made a phony complaint against 'White' homophobic men who attacked him.

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