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CHICAGO: A judge sentenced Jussie Smollett to 150 days in jail, calling the black and gay actor a narcissistic charlatan for staging a hate crime against himself to gain attention as the nation grappled with trouble heartbreaking racial injustice. Smollett responded by defiantly asserting his innocence and suggesting he could be killed in prison.
Smollett’s sentencing and post-hearing outburst capped an hours-long hearing Thursday and more than three years of legal drama over Smollett’s claim that he had been the target of a racist and homophobic attack.
Smollett did not make a statement when offered the opportunity before the judge announced the sentence, saying he was listening to the advice of his lawyers. But after Cook County Judge James Linn issued his ruling, Smollett removed the face mask he wore throughout the hearing to declare himself innocent.
“If I did that, it means I stuck my fist into the fears of black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBT community,” Smollett said, standing at the table in the defense as his attorneys and sheriff deputies surrounded him. “Your Honor, I respect you and I respect the jury but I didn’t do this. And I’m not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I walk in there, I don’t do it to myself. not myself. And you all should know that.
As deputies led him out of the courtroom, Smollett shouted again.
“I’m innocent,” he shouted, raising his fist. “I could have said I’m guilty a long time ago.”
The judge sentenced Smollett to 30 months of felony probation, including 150 days served in the Cook County Jail, and ordered him to pay $120,106 in restitution to the City of Chicago and a $25,000 fine.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb asked Linn to include “an appropriate prison term” when sentencing the actor for his conviction on five counts of disorderly conduct.
“His conduct denigrated hate crimes,” Webb said after the hearing. “His conduct will discourage other victims of hate crimes from coming forward and reporting these crimes to law enforcement.”
Smollett’s lawyers wanted the judge to limit the sentence to community service, arguing that he had already been punished by the criminal justice system and harmed his career.
Family members echoed those comments.
“I’m asking you, judge, not to send him to jail,” his grandmother, Molly Smollett, 92, told the court. She then added, “If you do, send me with him, okay?”
Smollett’s attorneys also read aloud letters from other supporters, including the president of the NAACP, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and actors LaTanya and Samuel L. Jackson who asked Linn to consider the effect of the case about Smollett’s life and career.
Several supporters have raised concerns that Smollett is in danger in prison, specifically mentioning his race, sexual orientation and his family’s Jewish heritage.
Linn said he considered those requests for clemency, as well as Smollett’s past work and financial support for social justice organizations. But Linn also excoriated Smollett as a narcissist and said he was stunned by his actions given the actor’s multiracial family background and ties to social justice work.
“The damage you have done to yourself is far beyond anything that can happen to you from me,” Linn said. “You are now a life-sentenced felon.”
Smollett’s attorney, Nenye Uche, said he would ask the prison to keep Smollett in protective custody and plans to appeal the judge’s verdict and sentence.
Uche said he didn’t expect Linn to include jail time, but Smollett did.
“He said, ‘Because I’m black, no matter how successful I am, I’m black,'” Uche told reporters after the hearing.
A spokesperson for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said Smollett will undergo a full medical, mental health and safety assessment, a routine process.
Before the sentencing portion of the hearing began, Linn denied a defense motion to overturn the jury’s verdict on legal grounds. Judges rarely grant such requests.
Smollett faces up to three years in prison for each of the five disorderly conduct charges – 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, non-violent crime, experts did not expect him to be sent to prison.
Thursday’s conviction, which is being appealed, is the latest chapter in a criminal case that made international headlines when Smollett reported to police that two men wearing ski masks had him beat him up and hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him on a dark Chicago street. disabled.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has come under fire for her office’s decision to drop her original charges against Smollett. On Thursday, Foxx blasted a “relentless, organized and effective” push to prosecute Smollett while other serious crimes went unsolved or unsolved.
“Just because we don’t like the outcome doesn’t mean we’re intimidating prosecutors and circumventing the court process to get it changed,” Foxx wrote in a column published by the Chicago Sun-Times. “Smollett was charged, tried and convicted by kangaroo prosecution within months.”
Court-appointed special prosecutors conducted the second case, and Smollett was convicted in December. Witnesses at his trial included two brothers who told jurors that Smollett paid them to carry out the attack, gave them money for ski masks and rope, asked them to shape the rope into a noose. Prosecutors said he told them what racist and homophobic slurs to yell and yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country,” a reference to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan.
Smollett, who knew the men from his work on the television show “Empire” filmed in Chicago, testified that he did not recognize them and did not know they were the men attacking him.
Unlike the trial, Linn agreed to leave photographers and a television camera inside the court for the hearing, meaning the public got to see and hear Smollett speak in court for the first time.

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