Chicago, IL – A Cook County judge sentenced former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett to 150 days in jail and 30 months of probation for faking a hate crime on himself in 2019 after saying the actor had “a dark side.”
Cook County Judge James Linn also ordered Smollett to pay the city of Chicago $120,106 in restitution and to pay criminal fines in the amount of $25,000.
Linn ordered Smollett immediately taken to the Cook County Jail to begin his sentence.
The judge said the sentence he was handing down had “real serious aggravating factors” that justified sending Smollett to prison.
Linn specifically mentioned premeditation, the damage to real victims, the damage done to the city of Chicago, and “hour upon hour upon hour of pure perjury” that he said Smollett had committed on the stand at trial.
Then the judge asked Smollett if he had any questions and the actor lowered his mask and announced that he was not suicidal.
“I am not suicidal,” the actor repeated several times. Then he stood up and began yelling.
“And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself,” Smollett announced.
His defense attorneys asked that Smollett be released pending appeal multiple times but the judge denied all of their requests.
“I am not suicidal,” Smollett yelled and held his fist up in the air in a black power salute as he was led from the courtroom by officers.
Before he sentenced Smollett, Linn called the actor “profoundly selfish and narcissistic” and said he acknowledged that Smollett had done “some real damage” with his crimes.
The judge said Smollett’s crimes were made worse by the fact his family was very involved in social justice activism – he called it “part of the fabric of their existence” – and said the actor knew what kind of crisis he would cause by reporting a faked hate crime.
“I don’t think money motivated you at all,” Linn said. “The only thing that I can find is that you really craved the attention and you wanted the attention.”
The judge said Smollett “took some scabs off some healing wounds and you ripped then apart because you wanted to make yourself more famous… you were actually throwing a national pity party for yourself.”
Linn acknowledged that the actor had a reputation for doing good works but said “you have another side of you that is profoundly selfish and narcissistic.”
“There is nothing worse than to be a victim of a hate crime,” the judge said and then lamented the impact Smollett’s faux hate allegations would have against “real victims” of hate crimes who were afraid to report them because of what the actor did.
Linn pointed to Smollett’s hypocrisy that was demonstrated throughout the trial and pointed specifically to the way the former “Empire” star had gotten offended when the special prosecutor read the n-word of his defense arguing.
“You put the noose around your own neck” and “you lied to the police,” the judge lectured Smollett. “That’s why you’re here now.”
He pointed out that Smollett knew politicians and news media and “used them as your patsies too.”
The judge said Smollett’s disgraceful arrogance and narcissism had allowed him to cause all of those people to hurt their credibility by standing up for him.
“The damage you’ve done to yourself is way behind what any judge or me can do to you,” Linn said.
‘”Your very name has become an adverb for lying, and I can’t imagine anything worse than that,” the judge said. “You’re the butt of jokes.”
Smollett’s entourage raised eyebrows when they arrived for his sentencing more than 10 minutes late on March 10.
Before the sentencing began, Smollett’s attorneys argued their motion to have the verdict reversed, and accused the judge of having violated their client’s Constitutional rights with the manner in which he conducted jury selection.
Prosecutors objected and Linn ultimately dismissed the defense’s motion and ordered that the sentencing would proceed.
Smollett’s 92-year-old grandmother attended the sentencing and testified on his behalf, telling the judge to send her to jail, too, if he incarcerated her grandson.
The judge said he had received numerous letters of support for Smollett and ordered them read into the record.
The letters of support opposed incarceration for Smollett and included missives from Black Lives Matter, the NAACP, Samuel L. Jackson and his wife, and Rev. Jesse Jackson for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
“We do not want Jussie to become another statistic… We support him in his journey to wholeness,” Jackson wrote in a letter to Linn.
The special prosecutor argued that the judge should consider aggravating circumstances that surrounded Smollett’s charges, including multiple efforts to obstruct justice and framing the incident as a hate crime to incite outrage in the community.
“The issue of lack of contrition here is also an important issue,” Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told the judge and asked that Linn give Smollett however much time prison time he decided he deserved based on his experience, to be followed by probation.
Webb asked that Linn order Smollett to pay $130,000 in restitution, less $10,000 he would be credited for the first “forfeiture” he made when his initial charges were dismissed.
He also asked the judge to impose “reasonable” criminal fines and community service as a condition of his probation.
Smollett’s attorneys argued that their client was being punished twice for the same crime because he had already paid a fine and done community service for Jackson’s coalition.
“People are watching,” defense attorneys warned the judge, urging him to show mercy on Smollett.
A Cook County jury found Smollett guilty of faking a hate crime against himself in 2019 on Dec. 9, 2021.
The jury found the actor guilty of lying to police in five of the six disorderly conduct charges against him, CNN reported.
The sixth count was a charge for lying to a detective weeks after Smollett initially reported the attack to police, FOX News reported.
Each Class 4 felony count carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie. https://t.co/o8ilPu68CM
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 30, 2019
Many legal experts had predicted that Smollett will not spend any time behind bars and would instead get probation and community service hours.
The whole saga began when Smollett told police on Jan. 29, 2019 that he had been attacked by two white supporters of President Donald Trump on his way home from a Subway restaurant.
He claimed the men called him homophobic and anti-black slurs and told him “This is MAGA country” as they beat him up and put a noose around his neck. He also said they threw a chemical on him.
Then-Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained at a press conference the day of Smollett’s arrest that that police considered the actor a victim up until Ola and Abel Osundairo returned from Nigeria to Chicago and were taken into police custody, and then the investigation “spun in a totally different direction.”
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt up until that 47th hour. But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” he explained.
He said the brothers told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with another $500 after they returned from a planned trip to Nigeria.
“We have the check that he used to pay them,” Superintendent Johnson said.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced on March 8, 2019 that Smollett had been indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct.
But then on March 26, 2019, the State’s Attorney’s Office unceremoniously announced all charges against the “Empire” actor had been dropped.
The city of Chicago has since sued Smollett for the cost of the overtime the police department incurred while investigating the hoax and the actor has counter-sued for malicious prosecution.
But despite that legal wrangling over dollars and cents, Smollett wasn’t in the clear.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin in June of 2019 appointed a special counsel to investigate what actually happened after information about Smollett hiding evidence and the involvement of Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen, in the case.
Toomin gave the special prosecutor a broad mandate to investigate what had happened with the case from beginning to end and what all parties involved had done.
The special prosecutor indicted Smollett on new charges on Feb. 11, 2020.