On Thursday, March 10, actor Jussie Smollett one-time star of the TV drama “Empire,” was convicted for lying to police and staging a hate crime. He was sentenced to 5 months in jail by Chicago court.
“I could’ve said I was guilty a long time ago!” Smollett bellowed as he was led away in handcuffs and remanded into custody.
“I did not do this and I am not suicidal and if anything happens to me when I go there, I did not do it to myself and you must all know that.”
Before handing down his sentence, Judge James Linn asked Smollett if he’d like to say anything but he declined, with his attorney Nenye Uche explaining he advised against it because of their plans to appeal the conviction.
But following a lengthy monologue from Linn, who excoriated Smollett for pretending to be a hate crime victim, Smollett started shouting to the court when he learned he’d be going to jail, appearing to imply there was some kind of conspiracy against him.
“I am not suicidal. I am innocent and I’m not suicidal. If I did this, then it means that I shoved my fist in the fears of black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBTQ community,” Smollett shouted.
Jussie Smollett gestures as he’s led out of the courtroom after being sentenced on March 10, 2022, in Chicago.
“Your honor, I respect you and I respect your decision, but I did not do this and I am not suicidal. If anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that,” said Jussie Smollett. Reportedly, when the deputies led him out of the courtroom, the actor yelled, “I am innocent. I could have said I am guilty a long time ago”
Jussie Smollett appears at his sentencing hearing Thursday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago.
Ola Osundairo arrives with his attorney Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez for actor Jussie Smollett’s sentencing hearing after Smollett was found guilty of staging a hate crime.
The actor’s supporters pushed leniency for Smollett before the sentencing among them were an organizer with Black Lives Matter, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, LaTanya, and Samuel L Jackson. The prominent figures urged the court to forgo confinement as part of the sentencing.
The Empire actor was sentenced to 30 months of felony probation and 150 days in jail by Cook County Judge James Linn. In addition to this, Jussie Smollett was also reportedly ordered that he pay $120, 106 in restitution to the city of Chicago. And a $25,000 fine after he was found guilty on five counts of felony disorderly conduct following his eight-day trial late last year. The Cook County judge ordered for Jussie Smollett to be immediately placed in custody.
As he delivered his sentence, Linn called the actor a “disgrace” and said his performance during the trial, in which he testified on his own behalf, was “pure perjury.”
“You’re not the victim of a racist hate crime, you’re not the victim of a homophobic hate crime, you’re just a charlatan pretending to be the victim of a hate crime and that’s shameful especially,” Linn told the court.
Smollett stands with his lawyers at his sentencing hearing on Thursday.
The rope used during Jussie Smollett’s staged hate crime.
“Your performance on the witness stand, this can only be described as pure perjury. You got on the witness stand … you committed hour upon hour upon hour of pure perjury.
“You have another side of you that is profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic and that bad side of you came out during the course of this,” the judge continued.
“Your very name has become an adverb for lying and I cannot imagine what could be worse than that.”
As Smollett was removed from the courtroom by members of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, his legal team made a series of oral motions to challenge the sentence, all of which Linn “respectfully denied.”
Smollett paid two Nigerian-born brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to carry out an attack on him to promote his career because he was “dissatisfied with his salary on ‘Empire,’” according to court papers.
Jussie Smollett crying during his sentencing hearing.
“The wheels of justice turn slowly sometimes, the hammer of justice has to fall and it’s falling right here, right now,” he said.
The felony raps Smollett was convicted of carry a maximum sentence of three years behind bars and while experts said previously he was unlikely to see jail time given his mostly clean criminal record and the non-violent nature of the charges, his decision to take the stand in his own defense ultimately weighed against him, Linn said.
Throughout five hours of testimony over the course of two days, the former “Empire” actor vehemently maintained there “was no hoax” and at times, grew defensive and combative under cross-examination by special prosecutor Dan Webb.
Further compounding the issue is the premeditated nature of the crime, the resources Smollett stole from genuine crime victims and the impact his lies will have on future hate crime cases, Linn said.
“Hate crimes are the absolute worst and I believe you did damage to real hate crime victims. There are people who are actual genuine victims of hate crimes that you did damage to,” Linn railed.
Prosecutors said Smollett, who is Black and gay, lied to police. When he told them he was accosted on a dark Chicago street corner near his Streeterville apartment, in the middle of a polar vortex by two masked strangers in January 2019.
Smollett claimed the attackers threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressions of support for former US President Donald Trump.
Tina Glandian, an attorney for Jussie Smollett, presents to the judge during his sentencing hearing Thursday,
The former chief of the Chicago Police Department previously said Smollett planned the hoax so he could get a raise on the set of “Empire,” but Linn disagreed with that notion and said the actor was purely motivated by the pursuit of “attention” and a “national pity party.”
“You knew this was a sore spot for everybody in this country and you knew this was a country slowly trying to heal … you took some scabs off some healing wounds and you ripped them apart for one reason: You wanted to make yourself more famous,” Linn seethed.
“Why would you betray something like social justice issues that you care so much about? The only thing I can conclude is … you have another side of you that is profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic and that bad side of you came out during the course of this.”
Jussie Smollett listens as his sentence is read at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, in Chicago, Illinois.
Jussie Smollett speaks after his sentence is read.
Jussie Smollett’s mug shot taken after this sentencing.
Before Linn delivered the sentence, the court spent hours listening to statements from Smollett’s relatives and letters written by his supporters who implored Linn to impose a lenient punishment with no jail time. Every single one of the letters and statements touched on Smollett’s passion for social justice and long, documented history of giving back to the community.
“I knew that Jussie Smollett grew up knowing to be sensitive towards matters of racial discrimination … He’s been doing this all his life. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he’s walking the walk,” Linn said.
“For you now to sit here convicted of hoaxing hate crimes, racial hate crimes, homophobic hate crimes, the hypocrisy is just astounding … you know better than anybody else these are serious matters.”