A Cook County judge could rule as soon as next month on whether to unseal files in “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s hate-crime hoax case. Lawyers for media organizations, including The Chicago Sun-Times, filed an emergency motion seeking to make records in Smollett’s case public because of the intense national attention on the case and prosecutors’ abrupt, controversial decision last week to drop all charges in the case. Judge Steven Watkins said Tuesday he would issue a written ruling around May 23. At a hearing March 26, one that hadn’t been placed on the public court schedule, prosecutors dropped 16 counts of disorderly conduct against Smollett in exchange, apparently, for Smollett forfeiting $10,000 he had posted toward his bond to the city of Chicago. During the same hearing, with no opposition from prosecutors, Smollett’s lawyers requested Watkins seal all records in the case. “The file is sealed,” Watkins said Tuesday, noting that under the law the file is not simply tossed out but can’t be viewed by anyone without a court order. “It’s not destroyed.” A state law that took effect in 2018 allows the “immediate seal” of records in cases where charges have been dropped or the defendant has been… Read full this story
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