As soon as it seemed as if the entire Jussie Smollett situation was coming to pass, this happened. As You may know the Jussie Smollett scandal broke headlines when he claimed that 2 men attacked him while using racist and homophobic slurs. The investigation took a turn when Chicago PD claimed that Jussie staged the attack for publicity, he was charged with 16 felony counts. The charges were later dismissed and the records for Jussie's case were shielded from the public eye based on an Illinois law that allows a defendant’s court file to be sealed if charges against them were dropped or they were acquitted.
According to the New York Times, 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,” Judge Watkins wrote. “These are not the actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy or simply be let alone.”
According to the NY Times, in a hearing last week, the lawyer representing media organizations, Natalie Spears, argued that the intention behind the Illinois law did not apply to Mr. Smollett’s case because it was so widely covered in the mainstream media. Jussie's lawyer, Brian Watson, argued at last week’s court hearing that the media had plenty of access to Mr. Smollett’s case and that unsealing it would violate Mr. Smollett’s rights.
Cathy McNeil Stein, the lawyer representing the state, said outside the courtroom on Thursday that the state’s attorney’s office planned to review its files and turn over documents that were previously sealed. The office said in a statement that it would release the documents by June 3.
To read our previous coverage on Jussie visit our Entertainment column.