Home Top Ad

A Chicago Judge unsealed court records in the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett on Thursday. The decision came after numerous media or...

Jussie Smollett’s Worst Case Senario Now Reality As The Judge Orders The Unsealing Of All Court Records

A Chicago Judge unsealed court records in the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett on Thursday. The decision came after numerous media organizations requested that the documents relating to Smollett’s arrest be released to the public.

The New York Times reports:

The decision to unseal the case could allow public access to documents from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office that could shed light on why the office suddenly dropped all charges against Mr. Smollett in March.

Mr. Smollett was accused of staging a racist and homophobic assault against himself. After the charges were dropped, the court approved a request by Mr. Smollett’s lawyer to seal the case; several news organizations, including The New York Times, asked the judge to reverse that decision, citing a need for more transparency in why local prosecutors suddenly decided to withdraw charges.

Mr. Smollett’s case captivated the American public earlier this year with one baffling twist after another. What started as mass outrage over a celebrity being targeted based on his race and sexual orientation turned into indignation at Mr. Smollett after the police concluded that he planned the attack himself in an effort to gain publicity. Mr. Smollett has maintained his innocence.

The records were shielded from the public eye based on an Illinois lawthat allows a defendant’s court file to be sealed if charges against them were dropped or they were acquitted. The law is partly meant to ensure that innocent defendants are not rejected from potential job opportunities because of an arrest record.

In explaining his ruling, Judge Steven G. Watkins of the Circuit Court of Cook County wrote that Mr. Smollett’s request for privacy was not a good enough reason to keep the records sealed, considering that Mr. Smollett willingly spoke about the situation in detail on national television and in other venues.

“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,” wrote Judge Watkins. He continued, “These are not the actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy or simply be let alone.”

Natalie Spears, the attorney representing said media organizations, argued during a hearing last week that the Illinois law’s intentions weren’t applicable to Smollett’s case since the mainstream media had covered it so extensively.

Once the charges against Smollett were dropped, it was announced by Fox that “Empire’s” 6th season would be the end of the show. “Fox executives declined to say whether Mr. Smollett’s case had anything to do with the decision. They said there were “no plans” for Mr. Smollett to come back, even as they negotiated an extension on his option, leaving the door open for a return later in the season,” the Times reports.

Brian Watson, a lawyer for Smollett, claimed during last week’s hearing that the media had enough information from the case and unsealing new documents would violate the actor’s rights.

According to the Times, “Mr. Watson said the media’s position that intense public attention to the case precluded Mr. Smollett’s right to privacy was self-fulfilling; the media had full control over whether it gave a defendant that attention. Speaking outside the courtroom on Thursday, Mr. Watson said that he was unsure whether he will appeal the judge’s decision and that he had to speak with Mr. Smollett before making any next steps.”

Judge Watkins’ order stated that Watson’s argument did have “some appeal,” going on to explain that he found “certain irony” in media organizations looking to have access to seal documents due to the fact that Smollett isn’t the average defendant.