Ahead of his sentencing in March, Empire actor Jussie Smollett has sought a new trial. Back in December, Smollett was found guilty when he was on trial for his alleged role in fabricating an assault with two brothers with whom he’d worked with on Empire serving as his accomplices. TMZ now reports that Smollett’s lawyers are asking for a new trial in Chicago, claiming his rights were violated, though they’d also be willing to accept the verdict to be reversed with Smollett declared not guilty.
If the judge will not reverse the verdict, Smollett wants to be given an entirely new trial. In the legally filed court docs, the actor says the court violated his constitutional rights by preventing his attorneys from actively participating in the jury selection process. He claims that his lawyers were not allowed to ask questions of potential jurors, alleging that this resulted in a tainted jury pool. Additionally, Smollett says prosecutors “showed a pattern of racism” with the jurors they selected.
The legal team for Smollett is alleging that the judge wrongfully barred the media and public from the courtroom and that the prosecutors pressured witnesses into giving false testimony. Another complaint states that the judge wrongfully limited the defense questioning of witnesses. This appeal is not unexpected, however, as Smollett’s lawyers had announced their intentions to appeal after the verdict of guilty was reached in December.
In January 2019, Smollett claimed that he was the victim of an assault by two masked men in Chicago, alleging that his assailants were using racial and homophobic slurs during the attack. He also said that he was doused with a chemical substance, with the men also placing a rope around his neck. Police were suspicious of his story, and their investigation uncovered that Smollett’s attackers were two brothers he had met on the Empire set. During the trial, Smollett insisted that he was innocent and that his attackers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, had orchestrated the assault without his involvement.
Jussie Smollett’s Acting Future Is Unclear
With public opinion not on his side, Jussie Smollett has seen significant damage to his career due to the alleged assault situation. He was severely scaled back with his Empire screen time, only showing up very briefly in the show’s final season. While he’d previously been starting to pick up roles in films like Alien: Covenant and Marshall, it all came to a screeching halt in the wake of the scandal.
As of now, Smollett does not have any acting roles lined up. Because he’s still in the midst of his legal problems, that certainly makes sense, but it does not necessarily mean the end of his career. Just months after that incident, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were both caught up in their own scandal for having their children enrolled into prestigious colleges through bribery. Both have since legally repaid their debts to society and are back to acting again. Perhaps the same can happen with Smollett once this trial is entirely behind him, regardless of how his request for a retrial turns out.
Jussie Smollett’s sentencing is scheduled for March 10.
Former Empire star Jussie Smollett has been indicted by special prosecutor Dan Webb with six counts of disorderly conduct.
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