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Jussie Smollett To Be Sentenced In March For Hate Crime Hoax

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Actor Jussie Smollett is scheduled to be sentenced in March on five counts of disorderly conduct, after he was convicted last year of orchestrating a fake hate crime against himself in January 2019.

Cook County Judge James Linn on Wednesday scheduled Smollett's sentencing hearing for March 10, and told prosecutors and defense attorneys to provide him with a list of potential witnesses by March 3.

On Dec. 10, a Cook County jury found Smollett guilty of five of six counts of disorderly conduct, while acquitting him of the sixth count. Prosecutors had charged Smollett with staging a fake racist and homophobic attack against himself in January 2019, and then lying to police about it, in a bid for publicity.

The charges for which Smollett was convicted dealt with his falsely telling several different police officers he was the victim of a hate crime and a battery.

The disorderly conduct charges are class 4 felonies, carrying a sentence of up to three years in prison. Smollett will remain free on bond as he awaits sentencing,

CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller has said it's unlikely Smollett would be sentenced to significant time in prison, if any, despite previously pleading no contest to charges he lied to police by giving his brother's name during a DUI arrest in California.

"So he's not really a first-time offender. So when this case comes down to sentencing in a month or so from now, the judge is going to have a pre-sentence report by a probation officer, which lays out his entire background -- the good stuff, the bad stuff -- and decide whether or not he should get probation. And, frankly, under Illinois law, for a class 4 felony, there's a presumption that he should get probation," Miller said.

However, Miller said prosecutors might ask the judge to give Smollett up to six months in jail in addition to probation.

"That is a reasonable probability, because the judge may look at him and say, 'Mr. Smollett, you got on that stand and you lied. You lied to these jurors. You lied to the police. You lied to me. I think you did not take that first step towards rehabilitation, and earned a little jail time," Miller said.

After the jury convicted Smollett in December, special prosecutor Dan Webb called the verdict "a resounding message" that Smollett staged a fake hate crime against himself.

"During my closing argument, I told the jury that I though the evidence was overwhelming; that, in fact, Mr. Smollett had faked the hate crime, and then lied to the police about it, and then compounded his crimes by lying to the jury during the course of this trial, and insulting their intelligence," he said. "With the resounding verdict that we just received from this jury, after one day of deliberations, in which they found Mr. Smollett guilty of virtually all charges of doing exactly what we said he did, of reporting a fake crime to the Chicago Police Department as a real crime."

Meanwhile, defense attorney Nenye Uche has said he plans to appeal Smollett's conviction, and he feels "100 percent confident" the appeal will succeed.

"We are confident in our appellate system," Uche said. "We're confident in our Illinois Supreme Court."

As to what specific grounds for appeal he might have, Uche said, "I will be here for 10 hours if I started listing the grounds of appeal."

Smollett, who is Black and gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home on Lower North Water Street around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him. Police and prosecutors have said Smollett orchestrated it himself, paying two brothers – Abel and Ola Osundairo – $3,500 to help stage the attack.

Smollett said his attackers doused him in bleach and draped a rope resembling a noose around his neck. Abel and Ola Osundairo were initially detained – suspected of carrying out the attack on Smollett.

But in a turn of events, Smollett went from victim to suspect – charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for staging the attack and lying to police.

The brothers told investigators that Smollett gave them the money to buy the ski masks, rope, and red hats to appear like supporters of President Donald Trump.

Police said Smollett orchestrated the plan because of an anonymous hate-filled letter sent to the studio where "Empire" was filmed – and said Smollett did not think the threat was taken seriously.

Jurors heard from 14 witnesses over six days of testimony during Smollett's trial, with Smollett taking the stand in his own defense, repeatedly asserting that there was no hoax, and that the attack was real.

"To answer all your questions about the hoax, I am going to deny. There was no hoax," Smollett told Webb during cross-examination.

Smollett told jurors he paid the Osundairo brothers $3,500 to help him with training and nutrition advice, not to stage a fake hate crime against himself.

He also testified the brothers told him after the attack that they were willing to publicly say they were not part of any hoax if he paid them $2 million.

Earlier at trial, Abel Osundairo denied asking Smollett for $1 million each for him and his brother not to testify against Smollett.

The Osundairo brothers were the prosecution's key witnesses during the trial, with both claiming that Smollett asked and paid them to stage the attack. They said Smollett wanted to use security video of the incident for publicity, but the actual attack was not caught on camera.

When asked about the alleged fake attack, Abel said, "He explained that he wanted me to fake beat him up."

Attorney Gloria Rodriguez, representing the Osundairo brothers, said her clients "could not be more pleased with the result" of the trial.


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