Jussie Smollett, the actor who was found guilty of staging a hate crime against himself, has returned to court in an attempt to appeal his conviction. His lawyers presented oral arguments before a three-judge panel at the First District Appellate Court in Illinois.
In a 76-page written appeal, Smollett’s legal team argued that his 2021 trial violated his Fifth Amendment rights against being punished for the same crime twice, as reported by AP News and CBS News. They contended that Smollett had already fulfilled the terms of a 2019 deal with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, which involved performing community service and forfeiting a $10,000 bond in exchange for the charges being dropped.
The appeal stated, “If Mr. Smollett’s convictions are allowed to stand, this case will set a dangerous precedent by giving prosecutors a second bite at the apple any time there is dissatisfaction with another prosecutor’s exercise of discretion.”
However, Sam Wieber, representing the special prosecutor, countered this argument. He indicated that the way the initial charges were dismissed left room for Smollett to be recharged. According to Wieber, double jeopardy typically does not apply if a defendant has not gone to trial or pleaded guilty, which is the case with Smollett.
“Illinois law is crystal clear. … It’s Law School 101,” Wieber said regarding the legal criteria. He emphasized that Smollett “has never made any statement that he accepts guilt.”
Smollett’s conviction stems from a controversial incident in 2019 when he claimed to have been attacked by two men in Chicago who used racist and homophobic slurs. The actor, who is Black and gay, alleged that his attackers wore MAGA hats, symbolic of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, and poured bleach on him while tying a rope fashioned into a noose around his neck.
However, police investigations revealed that Smollett had hired two brothers to stage the attack. The brothers were identified through Uber records and surveillance footage showed them rehearsing the attack with Smollett.
If Smollett’s appeal fails, he will be required to complete his 150-day sentence handed down in 2022. He has already spent six days in jail but was released pending the outcome of the appeal.