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Special Prosecutor Dan Webb: Jury Agreed With 'Overwhelming' Evidence That Jussie Smollett Lied

CHICAGO (CBS) -- After Jussie Smollett was convicted Thursday of orchestrating a fake hate crime against himself, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said the jury agreed that the evidence was "overwhelming" that Smollett had lied.

"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," Webb 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, that verdict was a resounding message by the jury that in fact Mr. Smollett did exactly what we said he did."

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.

Charges brought against Smollett by the Cook County State's Attorney's office were dropped two months after he was arrested.

Webb was later assigned as special prosecutor later was assigned to look into the entire case, after a judge found "unprecedented irregularities" in how Foxx handled the case, specifically by handing it over to her second-in-command after announcing she had recused herself.

In February 2020, a special Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment accusing Smollett of lying to Chicago Police. It was this indictment on which Smollett was tried.

"What I think is important about this verdict is that a lot of you from Chicago know that it was a couple years ago when the court system came to me, and wanted me to become special prosecutor, because there was a feeling that things that had happened in the past, that there never was a public trial, and that this controversial events that occurred regarding Mr. Smollett, and what he did to this city, and what he did to the Chicago Police Department, never had a chance to put it in front of a jury, and let a jury decide after hearing all of the evidence, whether Mr. Smollett was right or wrong," Webb said.

A jury of six men and six women deliberated more than nine hours over two days before finding Smollett guilty of five of six counts of disorderly conduct, accusing the actor of staging a fake racist and homophobic attack against himself in January 2019, and then lying to police about it, in a bid for publicity. Jurors found him not guilty of the sixth count of disorderly conduct.

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, which has not yet been scheduled.

Webb would not speculate on why the jury acquitted Smollett on the sixth count, which involved a statement two weeks after the incident. The other five counts were statements from day of the incident.

But he did say the jury's guilty verdict meant that jurors agreed Smollett was lying to them.

"This jury worked so hard, and for Mr. Smollett to get up in front of them and lie for hours and hours and hours, that really compounded his misconduct, and quite frankly, when I saw that happen in the courtroom, at least as a trial lawyer that's spent my life in the courtroom, we don't expect defendants to do that," Webb said. "Defendants have a right to go to trial. Defendants have a right to argue that their case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But defendants do not have the right to go in front of a jury and lie under oath. Mr. Smollett would not have lost his case as he did today, unless the jury found that he lied to them."

Webb also emphasized the time and money spent on investigating the hate crime Smollett said happened before police concluded it was all a hoax.

"This police department responded by absolutely testifying at this trial that they took it seriously. They believed he was the victim of a crime, and they worked so hard for the next three weeks. We saw 26 Chicago police officers spent 3,000 hours of time, costing the city well over $100,000 for a fake crime that never occurred; and, by the way, a fake crime that denigrates what a real hate crime is," Webb said. "And to use these meanings and symbols that are so abhorrent in our society, it's clear why the police would take it seriously, and they did."

He said the jury was likely moved by some of Smollett's claims about what happened that did not add up.

"Number one, I think my basic argument that it is ridiculous to think that Smollett left his apartment on the night of January 29th at 2 o'clock in the morning to go buy eggs, and that that's his explanation for why he ended up right at that intersection right at 2 o'clock in the morning, that the brothers said is where he told them that the attack should take place," Webb said. "So the fact that it actually happened that way, I think, was pretty profound,"

Webb also said he showed evidence in pictures that Smollett rigged the rope that he said was a noose after it was placed on him.

"Those pictures showed that he actually, after he went through this fake attack, wanted to make it look better, and he jimmied with the rope to make the noose look closer to his throat, and rustled around," Webb said.

Webb emphasized that his office did not charge Cook County any money for the case.

"We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do," he said.

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