Judge to unseal Jussie Smollett case file

Cites actor's publicity after charges dropped

By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Brad Parks, CNN
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Actor Jussie Smollett after his court appearance at Leighton Courthouse on March 26, 2019, in Chicago, after it was announced that all charges were dropped against the actor.

(CNN) - After weeks of wrangling, an Illinois judge Thursday decided to unseal the case file in the Jussie Smollett case.

"Good cause does not exist to keep the records of this case sealed," Cook County Circuit Judge Steven Watkins wrote.

Cook County prosecutors will release the documents in the case by June 3, according to a statement from State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

The gay black actor claimed in January that he'd been the victim of a hate-fueled attack in Chicago, but police in February announced that Smollett had staged the attack.

A Cook County grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts, but on March 26, prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the charges against the 36-year-old "Empire" actor. The lead prosecutor said they reviewed facts and considered Smollett's volunteer service in the community as well as his willingness to forfeit his $10,000 bond.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel denounced the decision.

Defense attorney Patricia Brown Holmes lauded the dismissal and told reporters that prosecutors sought to seal the case file.

"Today as you have figured out, the state made a motion to drop the charges against Jussie Smollett and to seal the record in this case," she said in March.

However, Thursday's order says that Smollett's defense team requested the files be sealed and prosecutors did not object.

Writing that it's "easily conceivable that a defendant whose case was dismissed would wish to maintain his sense of privacy," Watkins said that this was not the case with Smollett and noted that the actor and his attorneys spoke to several media outlets following the dismissal.

"These are not the actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy or simply be let alone," the judge wrote. "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."

CNN was among numerous media outlets fighting to have the records unsealed.

Smollett's publicist, Hilary Rosen, declined to comment on the ruling.

CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin wrote and reported from Atlanta, and Brad Parks reported from Chicago.

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