A judge ruled Thursday that the case records in the Jussie Smollett’s hoax hate crime case must be unsealed, saying Smollett demonstrated that he wasn’t concerned with privacy when he participated in multiple national media appearances, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
When Smollett’s numerous disorderly conduct charges were dropped, his records were sealed. That immediate sealing is common under state law to protect defendants from having arrests on their record after charges are dropped.
However, that decision to seal records can be challenged and overturned after the fact. And that’s what happened when media organizations requested that the record be made public, and the judge determined that there was no longer a good reason to keep them sealed.
Media outlets argued that there’s no point in sealing the records because of how public the case was. Smollett’s lawyers argue that being a public figure should not prevent him from the same right to privacy as any citizen in a similar situation. The judge was moved some by Smollett’s argument, but ultimately all those TV appearances swayed him to unseal.
“The Defendant voluntarily appeared on national television for an interview speaking about the incident in detail,” the decision read. “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. On several occasions, attorneys for Defendant, presumably with his authorization, appeared on various media outlets speaking about the case. These are not the actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy or simply be let alone.”
To recap the situation, Smollett claimed he had been attacked by racist, pro-Trump assailants in Chicago, and that they poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck. Evidence later indicated that he staged the attack with the help of two acquaintances, and he was charged for filing a false police report. Just weeks after being charged, prosecutors abruptly dropped the charges and sealed the case.