CHICAGO – The curtain is closing on Jussie Smollett’s hate hoax saga.
The disgraced actor, 39, will be sentenced Thursday at the George N. Leighton criminal courthouse in Chicago three months after a jury found him guilty of lying to police following his eight-day trial in December.
Smollett, who was convicted on five counts of felony disorderly conduct and acquitted of a sixth, is facing up to three years in prison but it’ll be up to Judge James Linn if he gets any time at all.
Legal experts have said it’s unlikely Smollett will be given a prison sentence considering his mostly clean criminal record and the non-violent nature of the charges, which are low-level, Class 4 felonies.
However, Smollett took the stand during his trial where he repeatedly and vehemently maintained his innocence and at times, grew defensive when challenged. It’s a decision that could weigh against him as Linn mulls whether or not to give Smollett a conditional discharge, community service, probation or some time behind bars.
Attorneys for the former “Empire” star are hoping Linn will agree to overturn his conviction – or at least grant him a new trial – after filing a Hail Mary motion on Feb. 25 alleging the court committed a series of errors and constitutional violations.
The 83-page filing argues prosecutors wrongfully dismissed jurors for being black and gay and that the court violated Smollett’s right to a fair trial by limiting the number of spectators allowed in the courtroom.
They said testimony from a witness, who claimed he saw a white man running away from the alleged crime scene on the night Smollett claims he was attacked, should be thrown out after he told jurors he felt “pressured and threatened” by prosecutors to change his story.
In the motion, Smollett’s attorneys argued once again that the state failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore, the charges should be vacated or a new trial granted.
It’s a request the legal team made during the trial after prosecutors rested their case but Linn disagreed, saying there was “ample evidence” to move forward.
Linn will rule on the motion ahead of the sentencing but even if it’s denied, Smollett’s attorney Nenye Uche plans to appeal the conviction and said he’s “100 percent certain” it’ll be overturned.
The sentencing comes more than three years after Smollett told police that two Trump-loving bigots doused him in bleach, beat him up and tied a noose around his neck on a street corner near his Streeterville apartment in the middle of a polar vortex.
Prosecutors argued Smollett concocted the scheme with the help of two brothers – Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo – in a misbegotten bid to raise his public profile.
The defense said the attack was real – and committed by the brothers because they’re homophobic.
On the stand, the actor denied there was a hoax and steadfastly maintained that the assault was real, and he was a victim.
In the absence of tangible, smoking-gun evidence, jurors had to decide whose story they believed more and after about nine hours of deliberation, they found Smollett’s tale didn’t add up.