Shortly after being ordered into custody to begin serving 150 days in jail on Thursday, actor Jussie Smollett finally started to speak.
He was innocent, he said. He was not suicidal. Then the former “Empire” actor stood up at the defense table and began talking directly to Judge James Linn, something he’d declined to do before learning the sentence.
“I respect you, your honor,” Smollett said, his voice rising as he gestured with his hands as though he wanted to say more. “I respect your decision. Jail time? I am not suicidal. … If anything happens to me in there I did not do it to myself!”
As Smollett’s attorney tried in vain to get the judge to stay his decision, Smollett was slowly surrounded by sheriff’s deputies before being led from the courtroom, pausing to pump his fist in the air before being being brought to a rear lockup.
With that, Smollett’s case, undoubtedly the most high-profile Class 4 felony to ever be tried in Chicago, came to a dramatic end.
In issuing his sentence at the conclusion of a marathon, five-hour hearing, Linn said Smollett’s decision to orchestrate a hoax hate crime on himself on a frigid night in downtown Chicago three years ago read like a bad movie script, one where Smollett invented the plot, hired the actors, chose the time and location provided props, and even rehearsed the racist and homophobic lines.
What bothered the judge the most, he said, was the motive. Smollett’s crime wasn’t one of passion or opportunity, but a deliberate attempt to concoct a story so shocking that it would give him the limelight he desperately wanted, according to Linn.
“You wanted to make yourself more famous,” Linn said. “And for a while it worked. The lights were on you. You were actually throwing a national pity party for yourself.”
The judge also ripped Smollett for doubling down on his lies at trial, when he took the witness stand in “the capper of all cappers” and lied to the jury “for hours upon hours.”
In addition to the five months behind bars, which will be served in the Cook County Jail, Linn sentenced Smollett to three years of probation and ordered him to pay $130,160 in restitution to the city to cover the more than 1,000 hours in police overtime it took to investigate Smollett’s false hate crime report.
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Source: Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO (AP) — Actor Jussie Smollett returned to court on Thursday, where he will 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.
Smollett arrived at the Cook County Courthouse Thursday afternoon, flanked by family members and his attorneys. Smollett, who is expected to continue to deny his role in the staged attack in January 2019, faces up to three years in prison for each of the five felony counts of disorderly conduct — the charge filed for lying to police — of which he was convicted. He was acquitted on a sixth count.
But because Smollett does not have an extensive criminal history and the conviction is for a low-level nonviolent crime, experts do not expect that he will be sent to prison. The actor could be ordered to serve up to a year in county jail or, if Cook County Judge James Linn chooses, be placed on probation and ordered to perform some kind of community service.
The sheer size and scope of the police investigation was a major part of the trial and is key in a $130,000 pending lawsuit that the city filed against Smollett to recover the cost of police overtime, so the judge also could order the actor to pay a hefty fine and restitution.
Smollett’s lead attorney has said that he’ll ask the judge to dismiss the charges before sentencing. But judges rarely grant such motions. That means this could be the final chapter in a criminal case, subject to appeal, that made international headlines when Smollett, who is Black and gay, reported to police that two men wearing ski masks beat him, and hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him on a dark Chicago street and ran off.
In December, Smollett was convicted in a trial that included the testimony of two brothers who told jurors Smollett paid them to carry out the attack, gave them money for the ski masks and rope, instructed them to fashion the rope into a noose. Prosecutors said he told them what racist and homophobic slurs to shout, and to yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country,” a reference to the campaign slogan of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Smollett, who knew the men from his work on the television show “Empire” that filmed in Chicago, testified that he did not recognize them and did not know they were the men attacking him.
During the hearing, prosecutors and Smollett’s attorneys will get a chance to present witnesses and allow Smollett to make a statement. He could repeat some of the things he told jurors during the trial about how he was simply a victim of a violent crime.
Smollett could also tell the judge as he told jurors about his extensive history of volunteering and donating to charitable causes. And he could say that the fact that the case left his career in shambles is punishment enough for him avoid custody.
Unlike the trial, Linn has agreed to let photographers and a television camera inside court for the hearing — meaning the public will for the first time get to see and hear Smollett speak in court.
Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.