In a closely watched legal saga, an Illinois appellate court affirmed the conviction of actor Jussie Smollett on Friday for orchestrating a false hate crime, with a split decision among the judges. The appellate ruling was carried by a majority of two judges, with Justice Freddrenna Lyle dissenting, as detailed in the court documents.
Smollett’s legal team, not deterred by the setback, is preparing to take the battle to the state’s highest court. “Despite the split decision, we are poised to take our substantial case to the Supreme Court, buoyed by Justice Lyle’s compelling dissent,” Smollett’s spokesperson Holly Baird communicated to the press.
Special Prosecutor Dan. K. Webb welcomed the appellate court’s affirmation of Smollett’s conviction, heralding it as a testament to the diligent efforts of his legal team and a significant step towards bolstering public trust in the Cook County justice system.
Previously, a jury convicted Smollett on multiple counts of disorderly conduct for falsely reporting a hate crime in 2019, where he claimed to be targeted due to his race and sexual orientation. The subsequent inquiry revealed that Smollett had orchestrated the attack, leading to his arrest.
The conviction led to a 150-day jail sentence, 30 months of felony probation, and financial penalties, including restitution to the city of Chicago and a fine. Smollett, asserting his innocence, expressed his concerns for his safety upon incarceration, stating emphatically, “I did not do this, and I am not suicidal.”
After serving only six days of his sentence, Smollett was released while his appeal was pending. The next steps hinge on whether the Illinois Supreme Court will review his case. Should the conviction stand, Smollett faces the remainder of his jail term.
The appeal, initiated by Smollett’s attorneys, challenges the legitimacy of the renewed prosecution on the grounds of due process violations and asserts the presence of bias and procedural errors that they argue nullify the trial’s outcomes. Additionally, they contend that prejudicial comments during the trial influenced the jury’s verdict.
Smollett’s defense team has consistently signaled their intent to challenge the verdict, with attorney Nenye Uche previously expressing concerns about inconsistencies and questioning the jury’s impartiality.