CHICAGO – Jussie Smollett is “100 percent confident” he will be cleared by an appeals court on charges he staged a hate crime, his attorney proclaimed Thursday.
The comments came shortly after a Chicago criminal court jury delivered a guilty verdict against the ex-“Empire” actor, who had claimed he was attacked in 2019 by two Donald Trump supporters who tied a noose around his neck and splashed bleach on him while hurling racist and anti-gay slurs.
“We feel 100 percent confident that this case will be won on appeal,” Nenye Uche, lead attorney for the defense, said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the route we wanted but sometimes that’s the route you have to take to win, especially a case where we remain 100 percent confident in our client’s innocence.”
Smollett was found guilty on five of six felony charges of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.
“He’s a human being, he’s disappointed — but I will tell you this I am very proud of him, I’m very, very proud of him,” Uche said. “He’s holding up very strong he’s committed to clearing his name and he’s 100 percent confident that he’s going to get cleared by the appellate court.”
Smollett, 39, was accused of staging the Jan. 29, 2019 attack with brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo to garner attention amid heightened racial tensions in the country. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, contended he was a real victim of a hate crime.
Prosecutors said Smollett paid the Osundairos $3,500 for the attack and planned out every aspect of the hoax, down to the specific homophobic and racial slurs he wanted the brothers to use and how hard they should throw their punches.
The defense tried to poke holes in the brothers’ credibility and Smollett testified he had paid $3,500 to Abimbola for personal training services, nothing else. In the hours before the attack, Smollett admitted he sent four texts about a delayed flight to Abimbola but testified it was because the two planned to work out together that night, dying he was coordinating with him ahead of the ruse.
Uche called Smollett’s conviction inconsistent because he was found not guilty on only one of the six counts against him, stemming from allegedly lying to police in a second interview in February 2019 — weeks after his initial complaint. The other charges he was convicted on were related to lies he made during his initial interviews with police on the day of the attack.
“Jussie was not accused of doing two different things and he was accused of doing one thing, and charged multiple times for the same incident, a jury cannot come out and say guilty of lying, but not guilty of lying,” Uche said. “It doesn’t make sense.
The attorney lamented the scrutiny on the case from its start and how it may have affected the outcome.
“From the first day of this case, his case has been prejudged, his case has been tried in the media, and it’s unfortunate, this is the United States of America,” Uche said. “We live in a constitutional democracy where everyone is presumed innocent but obviously, if we’re being honest, that hasn’t been the case.”
“But we are confident in our appellate system, we’re confident in our Illinois Supreme Court and we’re confident that at the end of the day, what’s out there in the news media, and in the gossip forums are not going to stand a chance in court.”