Jussie Smollett Case: Judge Orders 'Empire' Actor's Case File to Be Unsealed - NBC4 Washington

Jussie Smollett Case: Judge Orders 'Empire' Actor's Case File to Be Unsealed

The file was sealed when prosecutors abruptly dropped felony disorderly conduct charges against the "Empire" actor in March

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    Records in Smollett Case Ordered Unsealed

    Actor Jussie Smollett's court records have been ordered unsealed, but what could we learn from them? NBC 5's Ash-har Quraishi has the details. 

    (Published Thursday, May 23, 2019)

    A Cook County judge has ordered the sealed file surrounding the case of actor Jussie Smollett should be unsealed.

    Judge Steven Watkins issued his order Thursday after previously hearing oral arguments on whether the files should remain hidden from the public on May 16.

    Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said a review of the documents was underway and they will be released by June 3. 

    "State’s Attorney Foxx is pleased to be able to provide the public with even greater transparency in this matter than was previously possible because of the sealing order," her office said in a statement.

    Media attorney Natalie Spears argued then that there was no good cause for his case to remain sealed because he was so public throughout the ordeal, and that it would be harmful to the public to keep it under wraps.

    Smollett's attorney Brian Watson contended that the "Empire" actor has a right to privacy under various statutes that are afforded to thousands of other people every year, and that the media was allowed to cover the process of the case itself, so the public was not barred from learning any new developments.

    On Thursday, Watkins said that Smollett had "not shown good cause to rebut the public presumption of access." It was not immediately clear when the file would be made available to the public. 

    On Jan. 29, Smollett reported that he was the victim of an attack in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood, claiming to have been beaten by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, hit him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him, court documents show.

    Chicago police initially investigated the incident as a hate crime, but alleged the following month that he orchestrated the attack himself because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."

    He was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report, before a Cook County grand jury then indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts.

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    Smollett pleaded not guilty before all charges against him were dropped on March 28 in exchange for his forfeiture of his $10,000 bond and his performance of community service.

    The file was sealed in late March when prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges, drawing criticism of Foxx and calls for a special prosecutor to be appointed in the case. A hearing in that request was schedule for May 31.