Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 30 months of felony probation – the first 150 days of which he’ll spend in the Cook County Jail – a fine of $25,000, and $120,126 in restitution. As soon as the jail time was announced, the actor declared loudly that he is innocent and that he is not suicidal – so if anything happens to him during incarceration, it isn’t self-inflicted.
Unlike Jussie Smollett’s trial for charges of manufacturing a hate crime, his sentencing before Cook County Judge James B. Linn was broadcast publicly. It was a lengthy procedure during which defense attorneys and prosecutors alike spent nearly two hours re-litigating the charges. These arguments came in various pre-sentencing motions put forth by the defense and the prosecutors’ rebuttal to them. Then Judge Linn defended his rulings and the conviction and denied the motions before conducting a brief recess.
Smollett called several witnesses to testify in mitigating the sentence. There were colleagues and family, including his 92-year-old Jewish grandmother. Jussie’s plucky bubbie brought up the Holocaust and said if the judge sentenced Jussie to prison, he should sentence her too.
Smollett maintained a fairly casual appearance throughout the long proceedings until Judge Linn began to lecture him on the hypocrisy of faking a hate crime given his background and the seriousness of his continued perjury; At that point, the actor appeared to be taking things very seriously. After a lengthy set up, the sentence was promptly followed by a courtroom outburst on Smollett’s part. He yelled out that he was not suicidal, and that he was not guilty of faking the hate crime. The defense attempted to persuade the judge to allow Jussie to forego the actual jail time, but he was not swayed. The actor yelled out both his innocence and the fact that he isn’t suicidal on the way out of the courtroom, playing up the defense’s claims that incarceration could be tantamount to a death sentence thanks to COVID, or the fact that the defendant is a well-known gay black man with Jewish heritage.
A jury convicted him on five felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police in the face of overwhelming evidence. He faced a maximum sentence of three years in prison per count. While laying out the sentencing guidelines, Judge Linn made it clear he would not be running any prison sentences consecutively. In the end, however, Smollett was sentenced to almost everything he could be but prison time.
The actor has never fessed up to his crime, and, based on previous court filings, he intends to appeal his conviction. For most criminal defendants, the cost is an insurmountable barrier to an appeal – not for Smollett. The actor argued in a petition for a new trial that Judge Linn exhibited impermissible prejudice against the defense in his behavior and rulings.
Meanwhile, A celebrity-studded campaign to keep Jussie from a custodial sentence was in full force. Jesse Jackson, NAACP President X, and actor Samuel L. Jackson pleaded his case. Those arguments generally say Smollett has already suffered many significant negative repercussions and featured acts of prior community service. Samuel L. Jackson and his wife wrote, “Please Judge Linn, in God’s name, please save this young man and allow him to be of service.”
Smollett’s probation and jail time begins tonight.
~ Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.
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