Jussie Smollett was sentenced Thursday to 150 days in jail for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack that the former “Empire” actor orchestrated himself.
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Cook County Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett to 30 months of felony probation, including 150 days in the county jail. Linn denied a request to suspend Smollett’s sentence and ordered he be placed in custody immediately.
Smollett was also ordered to pay $120,106 in restitution.
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Smollett loudly proclaimed his innocence after the sentence. “I am innocent. I could have said I am guilty a long time ago,” Smollett shouted as sheriff’s deputies led him out of the courtroom, capping an hours-long sentencing hearing.
Jussie Smollett declined to make a statement Thursday during his sentencing hearing for lying to police in a staged hate crime, saying he agreed with his attorney’s advice to remain quiet.
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Smollett’s decision came after special prosecutor Dan Webb asked Cook County Judge James Linn to include “an appropriate amount of prison time” when sentencing the actor for his conviction. Webb said he would not ask for a specific amount of time, leaving that to Linn’s discretion.
He also asked that Smollett be ordered to pay $130,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago.
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Smollett’s defence attorney Nenye Uche asked Linn to limit the sentence to community service. He said Smollett “has lost nearly everything” in his career and finances and asked that Linn give him time to make restitution if that is part of the sentence.
Witnesses for both the state and Smollett testified at Smollett’s sentencing at the Cook County Courthouse. Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, who was called by the state, submitted a statement that was read aloud by Samuel Mendenhall, a member of the special prosecution team.
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In the statement, Brown, who became superintendent in April 2020 and wasn’t with the city at the time of Smollett’s police report, said Smollett’s false report of a hate crime harmed “actual victims” of such crimes. Brown asked that the city be compensated for its costs, saying the cost of investigating his claim could have been spent elsewhere in the city.
Jussie Smollett’s grandmother, testifying for the defence, asked Linn not to include prison time in his sentence for Smollett.
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“I ask you, judge, not to send him to prison,” Molly Smollett, 92, told the court. She later added, “If you do, send me along with him, OK?”
Smollett’s brother, Joel Smollett, Jr., told the court that Smollett is “not a threat to the people of Illinois. In my humble opinion he is completely innocent.”
Smollett’s attorneys also read aloud letters from other supporters, including an organizer with Black Lives Matter, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and LaTanya and Samuel L. Jackson that asked Linn to consider the case’s effect on Smollett’s life and career and to avoid any confinement as part of his sentence.
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Other supporters spoke about worries that Smollett would be at risk in prison, specifically mentioning his race, sexual orientation and his family’s Jewish heritage.
Smollett will eventually learn if a judge will order him locked up for his conviction of lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack that he orchestrated himself or allow him to remain free. Before the sentencing began, Linn rejected a motion from the defense to overturn the jury’s verdict on legal grounds. Judges rarely grant such motions.