Actor Jussie Smollett was convicted Thursday of staging a racist, homophobic attack on himself and later lying to police about the matter.
A panel of jurors reached the verdict nearly three years after the former “Empire” actor told police that two white supporters of President Donald Trump beat him up, put a noose around his neck, and yelled slurs at him on a frigid night in Chicago in January 2019. Jurors had deliberated for about nine hours Wednesday and Thursday.
As the verdict was read in the courtroom, the 39-year-old actor stood and faced the jury, showing no visible reaction.
Smollett was found guilty on five of the six felony disorderly conduct counts he faced—one count for each separate time he was accused of lying to police in the aftermath of the alleged attack.
The count he was acquitted on was related to when he was accused of lying to a detective in mid-February 2019.
Each felony count carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Cook County Judge James Linn has yet to set a date for sentencing, but has scheduled a presentencing hearing for Jan. 27.
Smollett had pleaded not guilty to all the charges and had denied making up or orchestrating the attack, although two brothers who allegedly partook in the scheme said Smollett was the mastermind behind it.
The verdict came after a roughly one-week trial where the brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, testified that Smollett recruited them to fake the attack near his home in downtown Chicago.
They said Smollett told them to put a noose around his neck and rough him up in view of a surveillance camera, and that he said he wanted video of the hoax made public via social media.
Prosecutors said that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack so he could gain publicity.
“It’s clearly a violation of the law to go to the police and report to police a fake crime and tell police it’s a real crime,” special prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury. “To outright denigrate something as serious, as heinous, as a real hate crime, to denigrate it and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such horrible historical significance in our country was just plain wrong to do it and he did.”
But defense attorney Nenye Uche called the Osundairo brothers, who are black, “sophisticated liars” who may have been motivated to attack Smollett because of homophobia or because they wanted to be hired to work as his security.
“These guys want to make money,” he said.
Uche called it “nonsense” for Chicago police to ask Smollett for his DNA when he was still considered the victim of a crime. He noted Smollett later provided DNA to the FBI for a separate investigation into hate mail he had received at the “Empire” studio shortly before the alleged attack.
Smollett had testified that he was the victim of a real hate crime, telling jurors “there was no hoax.”
Smollett’s professional life declined after the alleged incident. He lost his role in the final season of “Empire” after prosecutors alleged the attack was a hoax.
“I’ve lost my livelihood,” he told jurors earlier this week.
Mimi Nguyen Ly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.