Just weeks before he is scheduled to be sentenced, Jussie Smollett has asked a judge to throw out his conviction or order a new trial on charges related to accusations that he staged a hate crime and lied to police about it, TMZ reports.
Attorneys for Smollett filed a motion in court on Friday arguing that their client’s constitutional rights were violated during the trial that warrants the requested action. Jurors in December convicted the 39-year-old former “Empire” actor on five counts of disorderly conduct, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Prosecutors alleged that Smollett falsely told Chicago police he was attacked in 2019 by two supporters of former President Donald Trump because he is gay and black.
Smollett claimed that the two individuals physically assaulted him, poured bleach on him, and then put a noose around his neck.
However, authorities concluded that Smollett hired two actors – the Osundairo brothers – to perform the attack to obtain publicity.
The court filing on Friday argues that the judge presiding over the case violated Smollett’s right to a public trial because the number of people allowed in the courtroom was restricted to mitigate for COVID-19, according to the New York Post. The filing contends that the judge’s decision to bar the defense from directly questioning potential jurors was prejudicial.
“Even before the verdict was out, most Americans who had not seen the evidence in the courtroom were convinced that Jussie had committed the crime,” the court filing reads, according to the Post.
“In fact, prior to and during the trial Mr. Smollett had become a lightning rod for the political divisions plaguing the country currently.”
Further, the defense argues that the court engaged in “procedures and tactics” that permitted the prosecution to leave out black and gay jurors. The judge also gave preferential treatment to the Osundairo brothers and did not advise the jury to “cautiously scrutinize” their testimony, according to the defense.
In addition, Smollett’s legal team argues that testimony from one witness should have been excluded because he expressed feeling “pressured and threatened” by the state to revise his story, and that the judge failed to address an allegedly homophobic statement from a detective, who said Smollett had a “pretty face.”
Finally, the court filing contends that the judge should not have let the jury watch a full interview Smollett gave on “Good Morning America” because only a portion of it had been admitted into trial.
Smollett faces up to three years in prison, although he is likely to be given a lighter sentence because he does not have a serious criminal history, according to the Sun-Times.
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[Feature Photo: Actor Jussie Smollett, along with his mother Janet, returns to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Chicago, after a jury reached a verdict in his trial. Smollett was convicted Thursday on five of six charges he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself nearly three years ago and then lied to Chicago police about it. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)]