Judge allows cameras at Jussie Smollett sentencing
CHICAGO - A Cook County judge will allow news cameras to broadcast the sentencing hearing for former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett next month after he previously rejected their presence in the courtroom.
Smollet was convicted in December of staging a hate crime against himself and lying about it to Chicago police. A jury found him guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct, but acquitted the actor and singer of a sixth count.
In his ruling Friday, Judge James Linn reasoned that that previous concerns about allowing cameras in the courtroom no longer exist following the conclusion of Smollett’s jury trial and wrote "there is no good cause to continue to deny extended media coverage for post-trial proceedings."
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Linn denied previous requests to allow cameras to record Smollett’s trial and ruled last month that he wouldn’t allow cameras at Smollett’s March 10 sentencing hearing after Smollett’s attorneys objected.
On Thursday, Steven Mandell, an attorney representing the group of media outlets, asked Linn to reconsider that ruling, argued for the public’s right to watch the proceedings in real time and called the case "of critical importance to the public."
Mandell asked that a camera be allowed to record the hearing live and for a photographer to be allowed in the courtroom.
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Smollett’s lead defense attorney Nenye Uche responded that the counts against Smollett were the lowest level of felony charges and said he was concerned broadcasting the proceedings would result in the case "growing more legs than it already has."
"We want this case treated like any other Class 4 felony," Uche said.
Attorneys for Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said they wouldn’t take a position one way or the other on whether cameras should be allowed.