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Smollett found guilty of lying to authorities in trial over his alleged attack

NOEL KING, HOST:

A jury in Chicago convicted the actor Jussie Smollett of lying to police about being the victim of a hate crime. Here's Chip Mitchell from member station WBEZ.

CHIP MITCHELL, BYLINE: Actor Jussie Smollett was a member of the cast of "Empire" in 2019 when he reported that two men had come up on him yelling racist, anti-gay slurs and referring to making America great again. He said they roughed him up, looped a noose around his neck and doused him with bleach. Police gathered evidence that led them to two brothers who worked on the show, Bola and Ola Osundairo. The brothers said Smollett had hired them to carry out the attack. The actor went from victim to suspect. Lead prosecutor Dan Webb spoke to reporters last night.

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DAN WEBB: This police department took it seriously. They believed he was the victim of a crime. And they worked so hard for the next three weeks. You saw - 26 Chicago police officers spent 3,000 hours of time, costing this 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.

MITCHELL: Webb was the case's special prosecutor. He was appointed after the Cook County state's attorney's office dropped the initial charges against Smollett. That sparked an uproar, especially among Chicago cops. Last year, Webb announced a new indictment, six counts of felony disorderly conduct. That's the Illinois charge for reporting falsely to police. At the trials, Smollett insisted there was no hoax and called the Osundairos liars. His attorneys depicted them as extortionists. The jury had to decide whose testimony to believe, the actors or the Osundairos. After more than nine hours of deliberation, the verdict came last night. Smollett was guilty on five of the six counts.

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WEBB: The jury found that he lied to them.

MITCHELL: Webb said defendants have a right to argue that the charges have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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WEBB: The defendants do not have the right to go in front of a jury and lie under oath.

MITCHELL: Webb said that could factor into Smollett's sentence. The judge could order anything from probation to a prison term of up to three years. Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez is an attorney for the Osundairos. She says it's time for small lad to come clean.

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GLORIA SCHMIDT RODRIGUEZ: You are still your mother's child. If you did this. You will still be the person that so many people love you for. People will forgive you. It is time to cut the act.

MITCHELL: But Smollett's attorney, Nenye Uche, says the verdict was wrong. He insists the case never should have gone to trial.

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NENYE UCHE: Why was so much money and resources spent re-prosecuting this case when we have hundreds of people dying in Chicago from gun violence. We have drug cases, people dying in the suburbs of drug overdose. Why aren't resources being focused on that?

MITCHELL: Uche says he intends to file an appeal for the actor.

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UCHE: He's committed to clearing his name. And he is 100% confident that he's going to get cleared by appellate courts.

MITCHELL: The trial judge is allowing Smollett to remain free pending sentencing.

For NPR News, I'm Chip Mitchell in Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT'S "SPY BOY/FLAG BOY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.