While claiming his innocence, Jussie Smollett, the former star of “Empire” found guilty of organizing a racist and homophobic attack, was sentenced Thursday to 150 days in prison.
Cook County Judge James Linn also sentenced Smollett to 30 months probation for the felony and ordered the actor to pay restitution of $120,106 and a $25,000 fine. Linn denied a request to suspend Smollett’s sentence and ordered that he be taken into custody immediately.
After the verdict, after previously refusing to speak on Thursday, Smollett stood up and told the judge, “I’m innocent and I’m not suicidal,” he added, suggesting that “if anything happens “in prison, he did not take his. the life.
“If I did that, it means I put my fist into the fears of black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBTQ community,” Smollett also said. “Your honor, I respect you and I respect the jury, but I didn’t do this.”
As he was led out of the courtroom, Smollett added: “I could have said I was guilty a long time ago.”
Sentencing of Jussie Smollett: A breakdown of the charges against the actor during the trial
Before delivering his legal fate, Linn told Smollett that while the terms of the sentence were “crafted” just for him, the sentence could not account for “the damage you have already done to your own life.”
“You have turned your life upside down with your misconduct and shenanigans,” Linn said. “You destroyed your life as you knew it, and there is nothing a sentencing judge can do to you that can compare to the damage you have already done to yourself.”
Smollet’s timeline: Throwback to ex-‘Empire’ star’s alleged attack, hoax allegations
Before reading Smollett’s sentence, Judge Linn addressed the post-trial motions made by the defense. Defense attorney Tina Glandian has argued for a retrial of the Smollett case, citing a number of errors during the actor’s trial, including failure to honor a previous ‘immunity agreement’ between Smollett and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, an improper charge transfer and a lack of witness testimony control.
The prosecution, led by Sean Wieber, said the defense’s assertion of trial errors was riddled with “distortions of the actual record” and evidence presented during the trial “overwhelmingly” demonstrated the involvement of Smollett in the staged attack.
Despite Glandian’s extensive arguments, Linn ultimately denied the request for a new trial, saying he stood by “my findings and decisions.”
“I believe that in the end, Mr. Smollett received a fair trial,” Linn said. “There was nothing unconstitutional about this proceeding, and this post-trial motion for relief is respectfully denied.”
State and Smollett witnesses testified at Thursday’s sentencing, including Molly Smollett, Smollett’s 92-year-old grandmother. She called her grandson a “warrior of justice” and asked Linn not to include jail time in his sentence. “I’m asking you, judge, not to send him to jail,” Molly told the court. “If you do, send me with him, okay?”
Smollett’s attorneys also read aloud letters from other supporters, including a Black Lives Matter organizer, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and LaTanya and Samuel L. Jackson, who asked Linn to consider the effect of the case about Smollett’s life and career.
Several Smollett supporters also raised concerns that he would be in danger in prison, specifically mentioning his race, sexual orientation and his family’s Jewish heritage.
Linn said he considered those requests for clemency, along with Smollett’s previous work and financial support from social justice organizations. But despite this, Linn criticized Smollett, calling him a narcissist and a hypocrite.
Chicago Police Superintendent. David Brown, who was called by the state, submitted a statement which was read aloud by Special Prosecutions Team member Samuel Mendenhall. Brown, who was not with the city at the time of Smollett’s police report, said Smollett’s false report of a hate crime harmed the “real victims” of those crimes. Brown also asked that the city be compensated for its costs.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb asked Linn to include “an appropriate prison term” when sentencing Smollett. He also asked Smollett to be ordered to pay $130,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago.
Smollett’s defense attorney, Nenye Uche, asked Linn to limit the sentence to community service. He said Smollett “lost almost everything” in his career and finances and asked Linn to give him time to make restitution if it was part of the sentence. “Why are we jumping up and down like this is a murder case?” said Uche. “It’s not.”
Context:Jussie Smollett Found Guilty on 5 Counts of Organizing Racist, Anti-Gay Attack in Chicago, Lying to Police
What was Jussie Smollett accused of?
Smollett, 39, was convicted of five counts of disorderly conduct in December 2021 – one count for each time he was accused of lying to police in the days immediately following the alleged attack, which Smollett reported in January 2019. He was acquitted on count six, of lying to a detective in February 2019, weeks after Smollett said he was attacked.
Disorderly conduct is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison, but experts had predicted Smollett would likely be placed on probation and possibly ordered to perform community service.
The actor’s weeklong trial began Nov. 29, 2021, nearly three years after Smollett, who is black and gay, told police someone put a noose around his neck and shouted racist and homophobic slurs. According to police, he also told detectives that the assailants shouted, “This is MAGA country!” before fleeing the scene.
Smollett was originally charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct by a Cook County grand jury in March 2019, to which the actor pleaded not guilty. His lawyers said the charges were dropped later that month.
However, in April 2019, Smollett was hit with a double whammy of lawsuits. The City of Chicago filed a lawsuit seeking to recover investigation costs, totaling $130,000. The second lawsuit was a libel suit brought against Smollett’s lawyers by brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who said they helped Smollett organize the attack.
Webb was appointed as a special prosecutor in August 2019 to investigate why charges against Smollett were dropped. In February 2020, Webb announced that a grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Smollett, accusing him of lying to police. Smollett pleaded not guilty to the reinstated charges.
In October 2021, Linn rejected Uche’s argument to dismiss the criminal case. Uche said Smollett had been offered a non-prosecution agreement by former prosecutors with the Cook County District Attorney’s Office and that Smollett had kept his end of the bargain, having already done community service and waived to a bond of $10,000 as part of the settlement. His trial began the following month.
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What was the verdict of Jussie Smollett’s trial?
The verdict in the Smollett case came after a two-day jury deliberation, which followed the Osundairo brothers testifying at trial that Smollett recruited them to fake the attack near his downtown Chicago home. They said Smollett orchestrated the prank, telling them to bully him on a surveillance camera, and that he said he wanted video of the prank made public via social media.
Smollett’s attorney, Uche, argued his client was a “true victim” of a “true crime.” His defense tried to discredit the brothers, saying they lied about Smollett staging the attack to get off the hook for possessing the guns and heroin found when police raided their home after the alleged attack.
After the verdict was read, Uche said Smollett would appeal the conviction because he is “100% innocent”.
“Unfortunately we were up against an uphill battle where Jussie had already been tried and convicted in the media and then we had to somehow get the jury to forget or not see all the news reports that they had heard that were negative over the past three years,” Uche said at the time.
A report finds:Jussie Smollett case mishandled in ‘major failure’ by prosecutor Kim Foxx
Excerpt from Smollett’s trial:Only the black juror in the Jussie Smollett case couldn’t get over the former ‘Empire’ actor’s reaction to the noose
Special Prosecutor Webb, who told the jury that what Smollett did caused Chicago police to expend enormous resources investigating an alleged crime that turned out to be false, called the verdict “a resounding message from the jury”.
The damage to Smollett’s personal and professional life was severe. Smollett lost his role in “Empire” after prosecutors said the alleged attack was a hoax, and he told jurors in December 2021 that “I lost my livelihood.”
Speaking about his legal troubles with BET correspondent and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill in September 2020, Smollett said he believed law enforcement and the media were “trying to sell” a program by not highlighting only certain aspects of the case to paint the picture of a guilty man.
“When I step back, I can see the way they served the narrative to people: that it was intentionally created to make people doubt from the very beginning,” Smollett said at the time. “But at the same time, I don’t really live for people who don’t believe.”
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Contributors: Maria Puente, Elise Brisco and Rasha Ali, USA TODAY; Don Babwin and Kathleen Foody, Associated Press