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Illinois judge orders Jussie Smollett records unsealed

2019-05-25

Jussie Smollett smiles and waves to supporters before leaving Cook County Court after his charges were dropped in Chicago. (Paul Beaty/AP)

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Steven Watkins ordered that investigative records of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s “hoax” attack be unsealed after news organizations argued that keeping the documents away from the public was a First Amendment violation.

The documents were sealed in March after Smollett’s attorneys agreed to forfeit his bond and have the actor perform community service in exchange for all charges being dropped.

The documents total over 600 pages.

The 36-year-old Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct in early March. Chicago Police Department investigators were shocked when the charges stemming from a faked racist and homophobic attack against Smollett were dropped weeks later.

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Judge Watkins cited Smollett’s spate of interviews as a reason to disregard the defense’s argument that unsealing the records violated Smollett’s privacy.

“While the court appreciates that the defendant was in the public eye before the events that precipitated this case, it was not necessary for him to address this so publicly and to such an extent,” Watkins wrote. “By doing so, the court cannot credit his privacy interest as good cause to keep the case records sealed.”