Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was photographed behind bars Thursday night — just moments after an Illinois judge sentenced him to serve 150 days behind bars.
A jury last December convicted Smollett, now 39, of perpetrating a fake hate crime attack against himself in January 2019. The jury agreed with a special prosecutor that Smollett paid two fellow actors, the brothers Abel Osundairo and Ola Osundairo, to douse him with liquid from a bottle of hot sauce and to attempt to put a noose around his neck in the early morning hours of a dark and cold winter night. Some accounts said gasoline was the planned liquid; the brothers settled on using bleach instead, officials said in court.
But Circuit Court Associate Judge James B. Linn said the Osundairo brothers never had a chance to put the noose around Smollett’s neck. Smollett put the noose on his own neck and then tightened it later to make it look even worse, Linn said at sentencing.
The jury convicted Smollett of five counts of disorderly conduct for lying to the police in the aftermath of the purported attack.
Smollett denied wrongdoing on the witness stand. At sentencing, Judge Linn told Smollett that his testimony was “pure perjury.”
The original charges against Smollett were suddenly and surprisingly dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx under what Smollett’s defense attorneys characterized Thursday as a “negotiated” settlement. A special prosecutor reexamined the case pursuant to a request from Sheila O’Brien, a retired appellate court justice. The special prosecutor subsequently secured an indictment containing six counts of disorderly conduct. The jury convicted on five of those six counts.
Smollett refused to speak prior to sentencing. His attorneys said he was heeding their advice to remain silent given the complexity of his appeal.
Smollett erupted after Judge Linn sentenced Smollett to 150 days in the Cook County Jail, 30 months of probation, and ordered a $25,000 fine and more than $120,000 in restitution.
“I am not suicidal,” he said repeatedly — an apparent sign that he feared being killed in jail. “I am innocent, and I am not suicidal.”
“If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBTQ community,” Smollett said in an increasingly agitated and forceful tone. “Look, your honor, I respect you, and I respect the jury, but I did not do this. And I am not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself, and you must all know that. I respect you, your honor, and I respect your decision. Jail time? I am not suicidal.”
The judge cut him off to address a few perfunctory procedural matters. Defense attorneys then asked the judge to stay the sentence; Linn refused.
“The wheels of justice turn slowly, and sometimes the hammer of justice has to fall,” the judge said. “And it’s falling right here, right now. I’m not staying this. This happens right here, right now.”
Smollett held his right fist above his head as two deputies led him out of the courtroom. He appeared to yell something else as he crossed the threshold of the courtroom, but by then, an audio feed of the proceeding had been cut.
Foxx, the prosecutor who initially decided to let the matter slide, wrote specially to criticize the verdict and the sentence in the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Smollett was indicted, tried and convicted by a kangaroo prosecution in a matter of months,” Foxx wrote. “Meanwhile, the families of more than 50 Black women murdered in Chicago over the last 20 years await justice.”
Read Law&Crime’s copious coverage of Thursday’s sentencing hearing here.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]