Former ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett is charged with 16 counts alleging he lied to police when reporting he’d been the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack
Sitting in Chicago on Thursday, a judge ordered files in the Smollett case be unsealed
The actor is accused of staging hoax attack, in January
Judge Steven Watkins said Smollett has no right to privacy because he repeatedly claimed his innocence in interviews
Smollett’s defense team had asked for details to be kept private after the charges were dropped in March
While Smollett said he had the right ‘to be left alone’ but his lawyers have continued to do interviews about the case since
Judge Watkins said he no longer had the right to privacy because of media blitz
Smollett had been charged with 16 counts alleging he lied to police when reporting he’d been the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in January. Police insist the actor, who is black and gay, staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity.
Smollett had been charged with 16 counts alleging he lied to police when reporting he’d been the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in January.
Smollett’s attorney succeeded in sealing the court records at the same unannounced hearing in which Illinois State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office abruptly dropped all charges that the actor had staged a hate crime attack on himself.
That decision by prosecutors to drop all charges with little explanation in March proved sensational and prompted accusations of special treatment. Smollett wanted the case sealed, saying that he had ‘the right to be left alone.’
But before he was charged, he went on Good Morning America to insist he was telling the truth and even after the charges were dropped, his lawyers continued doing the media rounds to protest his innocence. Tribune attorney Natalie Spears, who represented the news media in the case, on May 16 asked the court to unseal them, claiming Smollett’s behavior throughout the proceedings took away from his right to privacy. After court Spears said the judge’s decision should be applauded. “This is about transparency and trust in the system, and we believe the public has a right to know what their government did here and why,” Spears said in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building. Smollett’s attorneys have not yet responded to it.
However, it is unclear how long it would take the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, which maintains the criminal records, to unseal Smollett’s case. The actual court file itself is slim since Foxx’s office abruptly dropped the 16-count indictment against Smollett only about a month after he was charged. But the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office have both denied public-records requests on the grounds that the file was sealed. In its April 16 response to the Tribune requests, Foxx’s office said more records could be released if the seal was lifted.