A day after former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was convicted on five of six counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police about being the victim of a racist, homophobic attack, a British appeals court overturned a lower court ruling Friday that could lead to WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange being extradited to the United States. Prosecutors called Thursday’s verdict “a resounding message by the jury” that Smollett recruited two brothers to fake an attack so it could be recorded by a surveillance camera and posted on social media for publicity.
“I took this case because I actually thought if it was true that he lied to the Chicago Police Department about something like a hate crime, when we’ve got all these social issues in our country…I thought that was bad conduct,” special prosecutor Dan Webb said after Smollett was convicted. “It was not insignificant. I thought it was serious criminal misconduct that needed to be approached and have a public trial about it.”
In his post-verdict remarks, defense attorney Nenye Uche disagreed with the last part of Webb’s statement.
“Why was so much money and resources spent re-prosecuting in this case when we have thousands and thousands of people dying, hundreds of people dying in Chicago from gun violence,” Uche asked. “Why aren’t resources being diverted to those situations?”
Judge James Linn set a post-trial hearing for the now-convicted Smollett for Jan. 27. Linn said he would schedule Smollett’s sentencing at a later date.
While the U.S. focused on Smollett being convicted, across the pond, officials were deciding whether Assange’s mental health was in appropriate shape for Assange to be extradited.
The High Court in London ruled that it was, overturning a lower court ruling. The court also said promises the U.S. had made were enough to guarantee Assange would be treated humanely within its criminal justice system.
“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,″ the High Court stated in its ruling. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”
Assange’s fiancé Stella Moris called the decision a “grave miscarriage of justice”. She said Assange’s lawyers would seek to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court.
“Julian exposed the crimes of CIA torturers, of CIA killers,” Morris said Friday. “And now we know that those CIA killers were planning to kill him too. How can this court, how can these courts, approve an extradition request under these conditions? How can they accept an extradition to the country that plotted to kill Julian, that plotted to kill a publisher because of what he published?”
British Home Secretary Priti Patel, who oversees law enforcement in the U.K., will make the final decision on whether to extradite Assange.
Dan Webb, special prosecutor: “During my closing argument, I told the jury that I thought the evidence was overwhelming, that in fact, Mr. Smollett had faked a hate crime and then lied to the police about it and then compounded his crimes by lying to the jury during the course of this trial and insulting their intelligence. That’s what I told the jury in my closing argument. With the resounding verdict we just received from this jury, after one day of deliberations in which they found Mr. Smollett guilty of virtually all charges of doing exactly what we said he did, of reporting of a fake crime to the Chicago Police Department as a real crime. That verdict was a resounding message by the jury that, in fact, Mr. Smollett did exactly what we said he did.”
Dan Webb, special prosecutor: “In this city, with this police department to have reported this crime on January 29th, you saw what this city did. A lot of times people say, well, police officers sweep things under the rug. This police department responded by actually testifying in this trial that they took it seriously. They believed he was the victim of a crime, and they worked so hard for the next three weeks. 26 Chicago police officers spent 3000 hours of time costing the city well over $100,000 for a fake crime that never occurred. And, by the way, a fake crime that denigrates what a real hate crime is. And to use these meanings and symbols that are so abhorrent in our society, it’s clear why the police would take it seriously. And they did.”
Nenye Uche, Defense attorney: “Obviously, we are we’ve heard the jury’s verdict. We respect the judiciary, respect the trial by jury process, so we’re not going to criticize that. We’re obviously very disappointed. We obviously respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict. The verdict is inconsistent. You cannot say Jussie is lying and Jussie is not lying for the same exact incident. So we feel 100%confidence that this case will be won on appeal. Unfortunately, that’s not the route we wanted, but sometimes that’s the route that you have to take to win, especially a case where we remain 100% confident in our client’s innocence.”
“We had the first black female prosecutor elected into Cook County as a state’s attorney, and she was second guessed. Kim Foxx. She made an executive decision and she decided not to prosecute this case. And she was second guessed and someone was appointed to prosecute it. So the question has to be asked why was so much money and resources spent re-prosecuting in this case when we have thousands and thousands of people dying, hundreds of people dying in Chicago from gun violence? Why aren’t resources being diverted to those situations?”
Stella Moris, partner of Julian Assange: “I want to emphasize that the High Court accepted all the medical evidence and the conclusions of the magistrate, that if Julian (Assange) is extradited and placed under extreme conditions of isolation, it will drive him to take his own life. And extradition is oppressive. Yet the High Court decided against Julian on this occasion on the basis of political assurances, non-assurances that the US has given to the UK government. I say non-assurances, Amnesty International says non-assurances, Amnesty International has analyzed these assurances and have said that they are inherently unreliable. They incorporate the possibility of breaking those assurances in their very wording. Today, it’s been almost a year since I stood outside court with our victory of the blocking of the extradition. For the past year and the past two years and a half, Julian has remained in prison. And in fact, he has been detained since the 7th of December 2010 in one form or another, 11 years. For how long can this go on? Today is International Human Rights Day. What a shame. How cynical, to have this decision on this day.”