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Jussie Smollett asks Illinois Supreme Court to hear case

TV actor Jussie Smollett stands before Cook County Circuit Judge Steven Watkins on March 14, 2019, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, where he pled not guilty. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The long-lasting Jussie Smollett case is not quite over yet.

The former “Empire” actor who was convicted of falsely reporting a hate crime to Chicago police in January of 2019 is petitioning the Illinois Supreme Court to hear his case after a lower appellate court in December upheld his sentence and conviction.

The move marks the next step as Smollett works to exhaust all his appeal options after a jury in 2021 convicted him on five of six counts of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail, 30 months of probation and $130,160 in restitution.

Smollett’s attorneys filed the petition to the high court on Monday, arguing that the questions raised by the case have the “potential for wide-reaching implications” across Illinois. The court has the discretion to decide whether to take the case, or leave the appellate court’s decision in effect.

The appeals court in a 2-1 decision largely rejected a lengthy laundry list of alleged violations in the case handled by special prosecutor Dan Webb after the Cook County state’s attorney’s office controversially dropped all charges. Smollett had argued that the original dismissal constituted a resolution in the case, given that he forfeited the $10,000 he posted for bail. Therefore, he has argued, the subsequent trial and conviction violated his double jeopardy rights.

The court, with one justice dissenting, ruled that Cook County prosecutors’ decision to drop charges did not constitute a non-prosecution agreement with Smollett. Justice Freddrenna Lyle disagreed, arguing that “Smollett gave up something of value, community service and bond forfeiture, in exchange for a nolle of the whole indictment.”

Smollett’s petition to the Supreme Court argues that the lower court’s opinion “threatens to upend all informal and formal deferred prosecution agreements.”

“What should have been a straightforward case has been complicated by the intersection of politics and public outrage,” the petition says.

In the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019, Smollett reported to Chicago police officers that two men attacked him in the Loop, hitting him, yelling homophobic slurs and placing a noose around his neck. But in a twist that drew frenzied international attention, prosecutors charged Smollett the following month with disorderly conduct for concocting the hoax with brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who testified that he paid them to perpetrate the attack.

About a month after prosecutors charged Smollett, they dropped all counts against him noting that he forfeited his $10,000 bond and had done community service. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx previously handed the case to deputies, saying she had recused herself.

Former Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb, a former U.S. attorney, as special prosecutor amid scrutiny around the decision. Webb later refiled the charges.


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