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Jussie Smollett to be sentenced March 10 in hate crime hoax

Jussie Smollett, middle, leaves the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago after being found guilty on five of six charges in his criminal trial on Dec. 9, 2021. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Jussie Smollett’s final act in Chicago may be coming soon.

A judge on Thursday set an in-person sentencing hearing for March 10 for the former “Empire” actor, who was convicted by a jury in December of faking a hate crime attack on himself.

During the brief virtual hearing, Criminal Courts Judge James Linn ordered both sides to submit a list of witnesses expected to testify at sentencing by March 3. He also gave Smollett’s attorneys until Feb. 25 to file any post-trial motions.

A jury found Smollett guilty on Dec. 9 on five out of six counts of disorderly conduct, a Class 4 felony, alleging he falsely reported to police that he was a victim of a hate crime attack in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2019.

The verdict capped off eight days of a closely watched trial, during which prosecutors successfully argued Smollett orchestrated a phony assault on himself with the help of two brothers who, at his request, yelled slurs and tried to wrap a noose around his neck.

Despite the media frenzy surrounding the case, Smollett stands convicted of one of the lowest-level felonies Illinois has on the books, and the likelihood of him seeing prison time is probably low.

Class 4 felonies carry penalties of one to three years in prison, but also probation or conditional discharge, which is similar to probation but with fewer strict conditions.

Linn also could impose a fine as well as order restitution, a monetary amount either agreed upon by the prosecution and defense, or determined at the sentencing hearing.

Though prison seems unlikely in the Smollett case, there are a few wild cards that make predictions uncertain.

While the underlying felonies are minor, the case is undeniably high profile — a national embarrassment for the city of Chicago that allegedly cost taxpayers more than $130,000 in police overtime.

And special prosecutor Dan Webb told reporters after the trial that he would probably point out during a sentencing hearing that Smollett took the stand in his own defense and lied for “hours and hours and hours.”

“I think this will probably be a point that I’ll make at sentencing, that not only did Mr. Smollett lie to the police and wreak havoc in this city for weeks on end for no reason whatsoever, but then he compounded the problem by lying under oath to a jury, which I don’t think should happen,” Webb said.

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