Jussie Smollett is dealing with jail time and the implosion of his profession if it turns out he lied about being the target of a hate crime, authorized and public relations specialists say.
“The most effective factor that Jussie can do is pray and pray rather a lot,” stated Ronn Torossian, founding father of 5W Public Relations. “If he made it up, he has massive problems in each the courtroom of regulation and the courtroom of public opinion.”
The “Empire” star claimed he was crushed up on Jan. 29 by two men who used racial and homophobic slurs. Smollett’s co-stars and colleagues on “Empire,” celebrities similar to Ellen Page and Zendaya, and public figures reminiscent of Sen. Kamala Harris rallied behind the actor, releasing statements of help. Nevertheless, Smollett’s account is now being challenged, with police investigating whether or not he paid two acquaintances, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, to stage the assault.
Chicago police confirmed on Tuesday that they acquired a tip from somebody claiming to have seen the three males together in an elevator of Smollett’s condominium building on the evening of the assault. Nevertheless, later in the day, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted that the tip was unfounded.
If Smollett falsified a police report, the charge is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, and carries a potential sentence of one to 3 years in prison. Smollett may be ordered to pay restitution to compensate for the cost of the Chicago Police Department investigation.
“It’s a very, very, very critical state of affairs,” stated Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who now works in legal protection in Chicago. “He’s received some very vital exposure.”
Smollett informed police that two men attacked him at 2 a.m., poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. He additionally claimed they informed him that it was “MAGA nation,” a reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. Chicago investigators at the moment are looking for to speak with Smollett.
Federal investigators are additionally probing a threatening letter that was despatched to the “Empire” set. The letter included homophobic language and contained a white powder, which was later decided to be a crushed painkiller tablet. Ought to that letter become pretend, federal prosecutors might additionally pursue a mail fraud cost, authorized specialists say.
Andrew Weisberg, a former prosecutor in the Prepare dinner County State’s Lawyer’s Office, stated Smollett might get probation, assuming that he has a clear report. However he also stated prosecutors might face strain not to be lenient.
“It’s a really high-profile case,” he stated. “Prosecutors are typically harder because everyone’s watching. … I feel they could come down arduous, when it comes to not decreasing it to a misdemeanor.”
Steve Greenberg, a Chicago protection lawyer, stated prosecutors might additionally file a cost of obstruction of justice. He stated it was possible, though, that Smollett can be allowed to plead to a misdemeanor, and not serve jail time.
“They’re not going to spoil a guy’s life over this,” Greenberg stated. “Individuals make false stories on a regular basis to the police. They get in a DUI, they name police and say, ‘My automotive was stolen.’ Ninety % of the time, even when they’re charged with a felony, those individuals find yourself pleading to a misdemeanor.”
Smollett has retained two felony defense attorneys, Victor Henderson and Todd Pugh. They’ve denied that Smollett staged the assault, and stated he’ll proceed to cooperate.
“His legal professionals could also be having a psychiatrist look at the guy so they might put together some sort of psychiatric defense,” Turner stated.
Smollett, like movie star fabulists reminiscent of Lance Armstrong and Ryan Lochte, may even see endorsement alternatives and roles dry up if he’s found to have been untruthful. Public relations specialists say he might want to show that he’s discovered a lesson.
“If he made this up, he broke the trust of a whole lot of his fans,” stated Ray Drasnin, founding father of Purple Penguin PR. “Say you lied and also you’re sorry for that lie. Apologize to the people who have supported you, promise to make it up, and find a trigger that’s near and pricey to your heart and dedicate yourself to it.”
Richard Levick, chairman and CEO of LEVICK, stated individuals shouldn’t rush to judgment relating to Smollet and cautioned that there are nonetheless, in the phrases of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “too many unknown unknowns.” Yet if Smollett did fabricate the attack, Levick says he needs to be extra proactive.
“He needs to get forward of this as much as he can,” he stated. “He needs to go see the police. He must apologize. He needs to make the announcement about what happened as an alternative of letting the information leak out. If he lied, there’s no excuse, but there may be some rationalization.”
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