Disgraced actor Jussie Smollett wants to revive his career after serving whatever time he gets for lying to police last year.
On Thursday, the former “Empire” star faces a maximum of 15 years behind bars at his sentencing hearing in a Chicago courtroom. Smollett, 39, was found guilty on five out of six counts of disorderly conduct for staging a hate crime in Jan. 2019 in an apparent effort to boost his career. Each of the Class-4 felony charges carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.
“He wants to get it over with,” said Tom Wilson, a Cleveland-based investor who told The Post he has known Smollett for 15 years.
If the sentencing goes well, Smollett will return to film work, added Wilson.
Before the trial, Wilson and Smollett were working to produce “B-Boy Blues,” an adaptation of James Earl Hardy’s 1991 novel. The film would be Smollett’s debut as a director. The “Empire” actor is also eager to return to his charity work, Wilson added.
“Jussie was the first to volunteer, and got all sorts of medical and other supplies out to [the town of] Jacmel during the earthquake,” said Wilson, who said he first met Smollett at a charity event in 2006. Later, they both worked on getting aid to the victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
“In 2018, he organized a tour of Europe and gave all of the proceeds to charity,” Wilson said of Smollett.
Wilson refused to give further specifics about how the actor will relaunch his career until after the sentencing hearing, but he claims that Smollett was made a scapegoat for the ills of the Cook County justice system, which has long faced allegations of corruption.
“To put a guy like Dan Webb in charge is ridiculous,” said Wilson, who believes Cook County went over the top in assigning the case to the storied attorney, who has prosecuted corruption cases in Chicago and was Special Counsel during the Iran-Contra affair in 1990.
In a recent podcast, Webb said he agreed to take on the case pro bono, partly to rehabilitate the integrity of the Cook County justice system.
“The public’s confidence needs to be restored,” he said. “I get so enraged when I see talking heads on Fox and CNN take shots at this city.”
Last month, Smollett’s legal team filed a motion to either throw out his guilty verdict or conduct a new trial, citing a violation of his constitutional rights and a litany of errors during the prosecution phase. They claim the case was used as “a lightning rod for the political divisions plaguing the country,”
“If justice is justice, he will not get sentenced to even one day in jail,” said Wilson.
Before he was arrested, Smollett was a fixture on the Hollywood charity circuit. He was a board member of the Black AIDS Institute, a Los Angeles-based non-profit since 2015, according to public tax filings for the group. Smollett left the group in 2019, the same year that he was charged with staging his own hate crime.
The actor paid two Nigerian-born brothers to carry out an attack on him to promote his career because he was “dissatisfied with his salary on ‘Empire,’” according to court papers. He gave them a script of homophobic and racist slurs to deliver during the phony beatdown.
Wilson said Smollett is looking forward to getting his life back.
“He’s lost a lot of time,” Wilson added. “It’s tough to sleep at night with this hanging over his head.”
One PR executive said Smollett could actually be helped by massive media exposure. For his sentencing, Cook County Judge James Linn is allowing television cameras in his courtroom for the first time during the legal proceedings.
“The proliferation of emerging social, digital, media and streaming platforms allows stars to identify and connect with their most important and sympathetic audiences and reach them directly instead of just relying on the typical mainstream media tour,” said Matthew Hiltzik, a crisis management specialist. “He needs to decide whether this current route will allow him to re-engage and regain trust on a broader level.”