Jussie Smollett gets 150 days in jail after faking hate crime against himself
Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail by a Chicago judge on Thursday for lying to police about a politically charged robbery and hate crime that he staged against himself.
The sentence also includes 30 months probation and $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago.
Smollett, 39, was found guilty in December of five out of six counts of felony disorderly conduct for making false reports to police.
“I am not suicidal,” he exclaimed in court after sentencing. “If anything happens to me when I go in there, you must all know that.”
The former “Empire” actor, who insisted on his innocence throughout the proceedings and after his sentence was read, had potentially faced up to three years in prison for each count, though Judge James Linn said Thursday he did not believe the case as it stood could result in multiple consecutive three-year terms.
Pointing to Smollett’s family history of fighting social injustice, however, Linn said in his sentencing, “The hypocrisy is just astounding.”
“The only thing I can find is that you really craved the attention,” he added.
The performer, who is Black and gay, claimed to be the victim of a January 2019 attack in Chicago that grabbed international headlines. Smollett had claimed that two men tied a noose around his neck and shouted racist, homophobic and pro-Trump remarks at him.
Smollett had actually paid two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to stage the attack, prosecutors argued during his trial. The siblings used racist and homophobic slurs against Smollett while wearing red caps similar to former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” ones and included a rope as part of the fake attack to “make it look like a hate crime.”
Several of Smollett’s friends and family members appeared in court to plead for leniency. Molly Smollett, the entertainer’s 92-year-old grandmother, told the court, “What the media may not know is that Jussie is what I call a justice warrior. He has been active against injustice all his life.”
“I ask you, the judge, not to send him to prison. If you do, send me along with him,” Molly Smollett said.
Statements supporting Smollett, who on the advice of counsel declined to comment on Thursday, were also read on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, actor Samuel L. Jackson and Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push Coalition.
At the beginning of Smollett’s sentencing, one of his defense attorneys, Tina Glandian, unsuccessfully argued a motion for a new trial. One of the issues she raised was that the defense should have played a greater role during jury selection.
Linn pushed back on Glandian’s remarks, saying some of the questions for potential jurors submitted by the defense included, “What kind of animal would you like to be?” and “Superman or Batman: what do you prefer?”
As details of the faux attack originally emerged more than two years ago, Trump and then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) condemned the alleged crime against Smollett.
Trump called the attack “horrible,” but months later mocked Smollett as an “actor that nobody ever heard of.” Harris initially described the ambush as “an attempted modern-day lynching,” before later saying she was “sad, frustrated and disappointed” when Chicago police accused Smollett of coordinating the attack.
Smollett notably made a late entrance to his sentencing hearing on Thursday. As he entered, a member of his security detail was seen getting into a kerfuffle with journalists on the way into court, leading to a photographer getting shoved to the ground.
“There is nothing worse than to be the victim of a hate crime,” Linn said before announcing his sentence. “And I believe that you did damage to real hate crimes, to hate crime victims.”
“Your very name has become an adverb for lying.”
Tristan Lejeune contributed.
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