The Jussie Smollett Case, Explained

Illinois Criminal Defense Attorneys

Hate crimes are criminal offenses in Illinois, but so is falsely accusing others of a hate crime, as actor Jussie Smollett is alleged to have done.  Smollett was charged by a grand jury with felony disorderly conduct for falsely reporting a hate crime. According to reports from the Chicago Sun-Times, his accusers say he staged the crime himself for publicity purposes. Smollett pleaded not-guilty to the accusations.

Hate crimes are often falsely reported to attract attention to a political statement or for publicity, self-recognition or sympathy. In 2015, 5,850 hate crimes were reported to the FBI, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that over half of the 250,000 hate crimes that took place in the U.S. were not reported to law enforcement, largely because it is difficult to find evidence and prove motive for these crimes. Another factor is that victims themselves hesitate to report hate crimes, because they fear retaliation or they don’t believe the incident is serious enough. Researchers have found LGTBQ victims often fail to report hate crimes out of fear that law enforcement will not correctly categorize the incident as a hate crime.

According to Illinois law, hate crimes occur when someone commits a crime against an individual or group for a biased reason such as:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical or mental disability.

In the Smollett case, the alleged crime was for racial and sexual orientation biases.

Both hate crimes and falsely accusing someone of hate crimes are taken seriously in Illinois and are considered to be felonies. Since even an allegation of a felony offense can have a devastating effect on a person’s reputation, livelihood and overall well-being, anyone charged with these crimes should enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney.

The seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. have extensive experience handling hate crimes and other felony offenses. We know the court system and the judges, and we will work tirelessly to reach an outcome that is favorable to you.  We make every effort to settle cases outside the courtroom, but if an agreement cannot be reached, we are experienced trial lawyers and know how to defend you in court.

We offer a free consultation, so contact us online or call our offices today.

What Happened in the Smollett Case

On Jan. 29, 2019, Justin Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed that he was attacked by two masked men. He reported that they beat him, yelled out homophobic and racial slurs, put a noose around his neck and threw a substance on him before fleeing the scene.

Chicago police questioned two “persons of interest” who were seen on surveillance video, and a raid of their home turned up ropes, masks and bleach. The two men, Nigerian brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, told detectives that Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack. The men were released without charges.

Detectives kept investigating the case and found that Smollett knew the alleged attackers. Ola Osundairo had played a prisoner in a season of “Empire,” and one brother was Smollett’s personal trainer.  The two brothers spoke out publicly, saying they are not racist, not homophobic and not anti-Trump.

The Cook County state’s attorney then filed a felony disorderly conduct charge against Smollett for allegedly filing a false report. Smollett turned himself in, and a judge set bond at $100,000 and ordered Smollett to surrender his passport. A Chicago grand jury charged Smollett with 16 felony counts for every alleged lie he told police. Smollett pled not guilty.

The Cook County State’s Attorney Office dropped all charges against Smollett and wiped his record. Smollett only forfeited his $10,000 bond payment and did two days of community service.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson are angry over this decision and stand by the accusations against Smollett. Emanuel implied that Smollett’s fame helped him get off. This case raises questions as to whether famous, rich or powerful people get special treatment when accused of a crime.

A lawyer for the city of Chicago says the city is seeking $130,000 from Smollett as restitution for the cost of the investigation he initiated. The case is expected to be reviewed by the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Hate Crime Laws

Illinois law states that hate crime is a Class 4 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense.  A Class 4 felony can be punished with imprisonment of 1 to 3 years and fines of up to $25,000.

In addition, hate crime is a Class 3 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense if committed in certain places, including a school or a church, synagogue, mosque, or other building, structure, or place used for religious purposes.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

If you are accused of a hate-related crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney available.

The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances.  We examine the facts and the evidence, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process to come up with an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.

Don’t delay — contact us online or call our offices to schedule your free consultation today if you have been accused of a hate-related crime or any criminal charges.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]