Jussie Smollett Sentenced to 150 Days in Jail for Hate Crime Hoax
- A judge sentenced the actor Jussie Smollett to 30 months of probation, including 150 days of jail time, on Thursday.
- The former “Empire” actor was convicted of lying to police in 2019 and posing as the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
- Smollett shouted in the courtroom that he was “innocent” and “not suicidal.”
Jussie Smollett was sentenced on Thursday to 30 months of probation, including 150 days of jail time, for staging a hate crime against himself and lying to police about it. In response, the disgraced actor raised his fist in the air and shouted repeatedly in the courtroom that he was “innocent” and that he was “not suicidal.”
“I am not suicidal! I am innocent. And I am not suicidal,” he said in court. “If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of black Americans who have been in this country for over 400 years, and the fears of the LGBT community.”
Smollett, 39, was convicted in December 2021 of five felony counts of disorderly conduct. He had been charged with filing false police reports stating he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. Cook County Judge James Linn also sentenced Smollett to pay $120,106 restitution to the city of Chicago to cover the cost of the police investigation, as well as a $25,000 fine.
The former “Empire” actor, who is Black and openly gay, told police that two men attacked him in the early morning hours of January 29, 2019, shouting, “This is MAGA country!” Smollett also said the men beat him, poured bleach on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck like a noose.
But prosecutors alleged at trial that Smollett had actually paid two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to pretend to attack him that night. The Osundairo brothers took the stand during the trial, testifying that Smollett had paid them $3,500 for the job and provided specific instructions on how to fake the attack.
In a blistering speech on Thursday, Cook County Judge Linn marveled at Smollett’s “hypocrisy,” called him a “charlatan,” and that said despite Smollett’s social-justice advocacy and philanthropy, he had done “damage to real victims of hate crimes.”
Linn openly speculated about Smollett’s motives behind the hoax, saying Smollett knew that racial tension was “a sore spot for everyone in this country” and asking why he would “betray something like social justice issues, which you care so much about?”
“I don’t think money motivated you at all. The only thing that I can find is that you really craved the attention,” Linn said. “You took some scabs off some healing wounds for one reason: you wanted to make yourself more famous. And for a while, it worked. You were actually throwing a national pity party for yourself.”
Linn also told Smollett he had a side that was “profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic.”
Smollett pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and even testified in his own defense during his trial. He told the jury “there was no hoax,” insisted he was genuinely attacked, and said he did pay the Osundairo brothers $3,500 — but only for a nutrition and workout plan.
Linn said Smollett’s “performance on the witness stand could only be described as pure perjury. You committed hour upon hour upon hour of pure perjury.”
Smollett’s supporters pleaded for the judge to keep him out of jail
Smollett’s defense attorney filed a motion last month asking Judge Linn to either toss the conviction or grant Smollett a new trial. On Thursday, Linn denied that motion, arguing that nothing about Smollett’s prosecution had deprived him of due process.
“I do believe at the end of the day that Mr. Smollett had a fair trial,” Linn said. “There was nothing unconstitutional about these proceedings.”
Smollett could have faced up to three years in prison, but legal experts had long predicted that Smollett was more likely to be sentenced to probation or community service due to the non-violent nature of the crimes.
Ahead of Thursday’s sentencing hearing, a number of Smollett’s supporters — including those in the racial justice community and the entertainment industry — submitted letters to Linn pleading for leniency for Smollett.
The actors Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP all submitted letters asking the judge to consider Smollett’s history of charitable giving and volunteer work and suggesting that Smollett has already been punished enough via the damage to his reputation and acting career.
The defense also called several witnesses to the stand on Thursday to testify in support of Smollett, including the music director of “Empire,” Smollett’s older brother, and Smollett’s 92-year-old grandmother. Each of them described Smollett as a loving and generous social-justice advocate and noted that the crimes Smollett was convicted of were non-violent.
Smollett could be seen wiping tears from his eyes as his brother and grandmother spoke.
“The Jussie I know and love does not match up with the media’s portrayal of him,” his grandmother, Molly Smollett, told the court. “Jussie is loved and respected by all that know him. I ask you, judge, not to send him to prison. If you do, send me along with him.”
Special prosecutor Sean Wieber had asked Thursday that Linn impose some “period of incarceration,” and slammed Smollett in a statement, accusing him of lying to the jury while under oath, lying to the investigating police officers, and undermining true victims of hate crimes. Wieber also condemned Smollett’s lack of apology or acknowledgment of any wrongdoing, noting that “not a single act of contrition has happened in this case.”
“He lied to them over and over and over again,” Wieber said. “He denigrated, degraded true hate crimes and he marginalized the people who are true victims of hate crimes. That is what he did. And he did that knowingly.”