Jussie Smollett may not have a full-time gig on Empire anymore, but undoubtedly a lot of people are going to be going over his business now that judge today unsealed documents connected to actor’s arrest on criminal charges earlier this year.
Though Smollett got off the 16-count indictment in late March for allegedly faking a January 29 racial and homophobic attack, Judge Steven Watkins on Thursday vehemently disagreed with the contention of the actor and his lawyers that it was necessary to keep the paperwork out of the public eye for privacy reasons.
“Smollett voluntarily appeared on national television speaking about the incident in detail,” the Cook County Circuit Court judge said in his ruling on the matter brought forth by various media organizations, many of whom Smollett or his reps chatted with to. “After the March 26 dismissal, he voluntarily stood in front of cameras from numerous news organizations in the courthouse lobby and spoke about the case,” Watkins added in the 10-page document (read it here).
“These are not the actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy or simply be let alone,” the Judge wrote, pulling away the protection of a 2018 Illinois law that allows individuals to have their cases taken out of public view if they are found innocent or the claims are dropped.
Smollett’s lawyer Brian Watson today told local media that he had to check with the actor before a decision was made if they would appeal or not. Representatives for Smollett did not reply to a request for comment from Deadline.
However, an appeal is unlikely, I hear from sources.
The reason is that Smollett’s team actually now want the documents on the case public in the hopes that the generally condemning opinion of the actor will change once people look at the black and white of this, literally and figuratively.
Fox executives won’t say it publicly but Smollett’s various legal troubles obviously were a great part of the reason there are “no plans” for the actor, who once played the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the Lee Daniels and Danny Strong created drama, to return for the sixth and final season this fall.
With June 3 pencilled in as a release date, this now moves everything back once again to the office of highly criticized Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who will determine exactly how documents like police files and more will be doled out. Foxx controversially recused herself from the Smollett case because of a connection with a member of the actor’s family.
Yet, in a March 29 Chicago Tribune op-ed, the legal official declared that she wants the Class 4 felony case itself unsealed in “the interest of full transparency.” Repeating what the prosecutor from her office on the matter said in late March, Foxx stated that just because Smollett’s case was dropped for expediency sake after some credit for community service and forfeiting a $10,000 bond, “he has not been exonerated; he has not been found innocent.”
Smollett is also facing a potentially nearly $400,000 lawsuit from the Windy City itself. Outraged, at least publicly, at Smollett’s case being dropped, now ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent part of the last few weeks of his reign going after the performer for the money in Chicago PD overtime and more that it cost to investigate Smollett’s initial claim that he had been the victim of what was called a “hate crime.” No word if newly minted Mayor Lori Lightfoot plans to continue that legal strategy, but she hasn’t hit the brakes yet, if you know what I mean?
Add to that, lawyers of Smollett’s were sued for defamation in federal court late last month by brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who CPD said were paid by the actor to plan and coordinate the alleged fake assault on that cold cold Chicago early morning back in January
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