« Oklahoma completes final 2021 scheduled execution in the United States | Main | "Bureau of Justice Statistics releases "Capital Punishment, 2020 – Statistical Tables" »

December 9, 2021

Is Jussie Smollett likely to get probation after convictions on five low-level state felony counts of disorderly conduct?

Today seemed to be the day for high-profile convictions of TV stars (or maybe not-quite stars).  Not long after the federal conviction of Josh Duggar in Arkansas (basics here), a state jury in Chicago returned a guilty verdict on 5 of 6 counts brought against Jussie Smollett.  This AP piece provides the basics, as well as a sentencing forecast:

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was convicted Thursday on charges he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself nearly three years ago and then lied to Chicago police about it....

The jury found the 39-year-old guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct — for each separate time he was charged with lying to police in the days immediately after the alleged attack. He was acquitted on a sixth count, of lying to a detective in mid-February, weeks after Smollett said he was attacked.

Outside court, special prosecutor Dan Webb called the verdict “a resounding message by the jury that Mr. Smollett did exactly what we said he did.” Smollett “wreaked havoc here in the city for weeks on end for no reason whatsoever," then compounded the problem by lying under oath to the jury, Webb said....

Judge James Linn set a post-trial hearing for Jan. 27, and said he would schedule Smollett's sentencing at a later date. Disorderly conduct is a class 4 felony that carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if convicted, Smollett would likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.

The damage to his personal and professional life may be more severe. Smollett lost his role on the TV program “Empire” after prosecutors said the alleged attack was a hoax, and he told jurors earlier this week, “I’ve lost my livelihood.”

This local article, headlined "Here's what could happen during Jussie Smollett's sentencing after his guilty verdict," also suggests incarceration time is unlikely in this case:

A jury at the Leighton Criminal Court Building decided Smollett was guilty on five of six charges relating to false statements prosecutors said he made to Chicago police.

Those charges are listed as class 4 felonies, which are among the least serious felonies in Illinois, but can still carry potential prison time of up to three years. Experts have said Smollett will likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service due to his lack of criminal history.

"Because Mr. Smollett does not have a criminal history, there is a presumption that he would be given a form of probation," said Attorney Anthony Burch. "So I don't suspect that he would be taken into custody."

December 9, 2021 at 10:33 PM | Permalink


He committed obvious perjury . He should get between three and four years. He’s hoping for the Kevin Clinesmiith treatment.

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 10, 2021 10:16:02 AM

the oath he took upon taking the stand, and telling another outrageous story, is conduct learned during his short life. His family apparently never bothered to get him to a psychiatrist and a pastor. He's beyond help and confinement is no solution. That Michelle Obama would have bothered with this little nutcase just lit the fire that led to this nonsense trial.

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Dec 10, 2021 11:21:57 AM

FluffyRoss --

It may well be the case that "confinement is no solution," but then it seldom is. Confinement is, however, punishment, and punishment is just and, as you imply, overdue. And public punishment might deter someone contemplating a similar stunt.

This was not a nonsense trial. His made-up story both inflamed racial tension and caused the diversion of scarce police resources in a city overwhelmed with violent crime. In addition, having a trial here helped overcome the corrosive impression of celebrity justice, which had previously allowed him to walk away merely by forfeiting bond.

For anyone interested, my longer reaction to this case is here: https://www.crimeandconsequences.blog/?p=5325#more-5325

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 10, 2021 12:13:34 PM

Without -- as is my rule with all things -- agreeing with all of it (if I did, he would be worried), I respect Bill Otis' post. Stopping at least at the last bit.

An evenhanded concern across the board here would note that early quickie reactions generally lead to some "clueless" snap judgments. Ditto quickie media comments written by public figures.

The "rules is for suckers" concern is true enough & on my side, often the biggest concern.

As to confinement, as a rule, confinement is a limited solution. But, there is nothing special there applied to him personally.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 10, 2021 12:29:27 PM

As a whole, there was so much confusion on this matter, that I will be agnostic on just what happened without doing a deep dive which I have not done.

I welcomed a full trial, a case like this perhaps benefiting from a full public accounting, including the symbolic value of that institution.

"Low level" or not, multiple felonies would seem to warrant more than probation. As usual, I will leave the specifics to those more familiar with the "going rate" in that state.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 10, 2021 12:34:10 PM

Being Mr. Nicey, I would give Smollett one last chance to tell the truth at his allocution at sentencing. If he does -- and I mean come fully clean, not some mumbling non-contrition contrition -- then consideration should be given to imposing whatever the standard-range sentence is, with the condition that he re-pay the city the costs of investigation within 30 days, no extensions.

If he doesn't, and we all know he won't, he should be indicted for perjury at his trial.

No matter what your view of criminal justice, no system can work unless it has the authority to demand and obtain the truth. Lying under oath at a criminal trial undermines the most fundamental and essential integrity of the system. There has to be an answer, and it has to be prompt and stern.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 10, 2021 6:48:53 PM

I think there should be some prison, probably not very much. A single digit number of months. I also think there should be a large fine. I get the concern about justice for rich and poor. But from a utilitarian point of view, a large fine that can be paid is a punishment. And I think it would adequately punish and deter what Smollett did.

Posted by: Wiliam Jockusch | Dec 12, 2021 12:27:56 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB