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Smollett appeals conviction for staging a hate crime

Jussie Smollett’s legal battle continues as the former “Empire” actor appeals his conviction for staging a hate crime in January 2019. Smollett, who is black and gay, was found guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct for filing false police reports in connection with the alleged attack in Chicago.

Smollett’s legal team filed a notice of appeal on Monday, March 7, with the Illinois Appellate Court. The appeal argues that the evidence presented during Smollett’s trial did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of the charges.

“Mr. Smollett has consistently maintained his innocence and has always said he was a victim of a hate crime,” his attorney, Nenye Uche, said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting a full and complete record of the proceedings to the appellate court and have no doubt that the court will find that the trial court’s findings were not supported by the evidence.”

During the trial, Smollett was accused of hiring two acquaintances to stage an attack on him in which they yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and placed a noose around his neck. He claimed that the attackers were white Trump supporters. The police, however, soon found evidence that Smollett had orchestrated the attack himself.

Smollett was initially indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct, but the charges were later dropped by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in March 2019. However, a special prosecutor appointed by a judge later brought renewed charges against Smollett in February 2020.

In December 2021, a jury found Smollett guilty on all counts, and he was subsequently sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution to the city of Chicago.

The case has garnered significant attention and controversy, with many supporters of Smollett believing that he was unfairly targeted due to his race and sexual orientation. However, the Chicago Police Department and other critics have accused Smollett of wasting police resources and damaging the credibility of genuine victims of hate crimes.

The appeal process could take several months, and it remains to be seen whether Smollett will be successful in overturning his conviction. In the meantime, he continues to maintain his innocence and receive support from some corners of the LGBTQ+ community.

“As a community, we must support those who are the targets of hate and violence, regardless of the circumstances,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement after Smollett’s conviction. “We cannot allow the failure of one person to diminish our collective commitment to seeking justice for all victims of hate violence.”

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