The alleged assault of Empire actor Jussie Smollett continues to get stranger. New developments showcase just one of the ways that the investigation of a criminal defense lawyer can benefit people who have been accused of committing a crime.
The Case of Jussie Smollett's Assault
Actor Jussie Smollett, who is openly gay and biracial, claimed that he was the victim of a hate crime on January 29, 2019. According to him, he was assaulted by two white men wearing MAGA hats. During the attack, Smollett claimed they hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him and put a noose around his neck before he fended them off.
The police investigation led them to two suspects, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo. When the police arrested the brothers on suspicion of the crime, though, they claimed that it was Smollett who arranged for the assault. Apparently, Smollett was unhappy about his network studio's response to death threats he had been getting and wanted to stage an attack.
Based on the evidence that Smollett had paid the brothers and even told them what to buy and how to stage the assault, police are now charging Smollett with falsifying a police report, a Class 4 felony that can come with up to three years in jail.
The False Prosecution Defense
The incident highlights an important – but rarely used – tool in the belt of a criminal defense lawyer: The defense of false prosecution.
Claiming that the purported victim is making things up for their own gain is a rare defense to make. Arguing that the victim is leading a false prosecution is most often seen in allegations of domestic violence or child abuse when the person being accused is in the middle of a divorce proceeding: Particularly acrimonious spouses have been known to claim that their significant other is abusive in order to win more child custody.
However, false prosecutions related to divorces are designed to throw mud on the accused and rely on charges against specific people. In the Smollett case, it seems that the goal was much more complicated. From where things stand, now, it appears that Smollett wanted to pressure his network to take his safety more seriously, and alleged an assault by unknown assailants. When police investigated and discovered who those assailants were, though, the true danger of a false prosecution took shape: Now two innocent brothers who were doing what they were told to do – and who undoubtedly were told that nothing would come of it – were facing serious criminal consequences.
Joseph D. Lento: Philadelphia's Criminal Defense Attorney
Joseph D. Lento rarely has to raise the defense of false prosecution, because the circumstances rarely make it a legitimate defense. However, when it does apply to a particular case, raising the possibility that the alleged victim of a crime is using the legal system for their own gain – and putting innocent people into serious legal trouble – is an important way to raise the reasonable doubts that can prevent a criminal conviction. Call criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento at his Philadelphia law office at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online.