Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail and more than two years of probation Thursday, after he was found guilty on five counts of felony disorderly conduct in December for filing a false police report amid accusations he staged a hate crime attack on himself in 2019.
Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett to 30 months of probation, the first 150 days of which will be served in Cook County jail, and he was ordered to pay $120,106 in restitution to the city of Chicago and a $25,000 fine.
Smollett, 39, faced up to three years in prison for each of the five counts.
Before he was sentenced, Smollett’s team argued that his conviction should be thrown out on the grounds of “errors” made while prosecuting and trying him, including the appointment of a special prosecutor, a motion Linn denied.
During sentencing, prosecutors read a victim impact statement from the city of Chicago about the expense of police overtime in investigating the attack, which amounts to over $130,000, and requested Smollett be sentenced to pay restitution.
People close to Smollett, including his brother, his 92-year-old grandmother, the former music director of Empire and others who worked with the actor in volunteering for non-profits, spoke to Smollett’s character and urged leniency and that he not be incarcerated.
Prosecutor Dan Webb noted Smollett’s purported lies during the trial and lack of contrition, and urged Linn to sentence Smollett to an “appropriate” prison term, to pay fines and restitution and to perform community service as a condition of probation, perhaps for a Black or gay community organization.
“I don’t think money motivated you at all,” Linn told Smollett shortly before delivering Smollett’s sentence. “But the only thing I can find is that you really craved the attention, and you wanted to get the attention, and you were so invested in issues of social justice, and you knew this was a sore spot for everybody in this country.”
Because Smollett does not have a past felony criminal record, he was unlikely to face jail time and was likely be put on probation and ordered to do community service instead, or face a fine and restitution, according to the Associated Press. In 2019, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit—which was put on hold during the criminal case—against Smollett, seeking to recoup the roughly $130,000 spent in overtime investigating the attack, which Smollett claimed during the trial was not a hoax. Representatives for the city of Chicago sent a letter to Linn last week, asking prosecutors to seek restitution of the funds from Smollett during sentencing to avoid the further expenses of a lawsuit, according to the Chicago Tribune. In the lead up to Smollett’s sentencing, supporters including actor Samuel L. Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson, the director of Black Lives Matter and NAACP president Derrick Johnson wrote letters to Linn urging for leniency, some of which were read aloud in court.
In 2019, Smollett, who is Black and openly gay, said he was attacked by two men on the street in the middle of the night. Smollett said the purported assailants put a noose around his neck, poured liquid on him and yelled slurs and “MAGA country” at him, and news of the incident garnered national headlines. Two brothers, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, were arrested and then released without being charged. They later testified that Smollett hired them to stage an attack on him, though Smollett said he paid them for fitness advice. During the trial, Smollett’s legal team argued that the actor was really attacked by the brothers. Smollett’s relationship with Abimbola came into question, with Smollett testifying that he and his alleged assailant had a previous romantic relationship, though Abimbola denied this. Smollett was charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct. The five he was found guilty on were related to a false police report he filed over the attack. Smollett awaited sentencing outside of prison.
Chicago Vows To Extract $130,000 Compensation From Jussie Smollett Over Hate Crime Hoax After Guilty Verdict (Forbes)
Jussie Smollett Found Guilty On 5 Counts In Hoax Hate Crime Trial (Forbes)
Jussie Smollett Says ‘There Was No Hoax’ During ‘Hate Crime’ Trial (Forbes)
Jussie Smollett Wouldn’t Help Police During Investigation Of His Hate Crime Allegations, Detective Testifies (Forbes)