Posted on March 11, 2022

Jussie Smollett Sentenced to Five Months in Jail for Staging Fake Hate Crime

Ryan Mills, National Review, March 10, 2022

Former Empire star Jussie Smollett will spend five months in an Illinois jail after he was sentenced Thursday for staging a hoax hate crime against himself, an event that set off a national media firestorm and hand-wringing from politicians and celebrities about the prevalence of racism and homophobia in America.

After a nearly seven-hour hearing, Judge James Linn sentenced the actor and singer to 150 days in jail and 30 months of probation, and ordered him to pay restitution of just over $120,000 and a $25,000 criminal fine. He could have been sentenced to as much as three years in prison. Immediately after the sentence was read, Smollett repeatedly declared that he was innocent and that he was not suicidal.

“I did not do this. If anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it myself,” Smollett said during an emotional outburst. He left the courtroom with his fist raised, continuing to declare his innocence. “I could have said that I was guilty a long time ago.”

Before announcing his sentence, Linn called Smollett a charlatan who pretended to be a victim of a hate crime because he craved attention. He called the hoax “premeditated to the extreme.” The evidence against Smollett was “overwhelming,” Linn said, and his actions were “shameful.” He admonished Smollett for putting a noose around his own neck when his alleged attackers failed to. {snip}

Linn acknowledged the testimony of defense witnesses who described Smollett as a gentle person and a community advocate, dedicated to social justice. But Smollett has a “dark side,” Linn said, that includes extreme arrogance and narcissism.

“You wanted to make yourself more famous, and for a while it worked,” Linn said. “You actually threw a national pity party for yourself.”


Prior to the judge’s decision, special prosecutor Dan Webb argued that Smollett should serve a “fair and proper sentence” for his actions, including some time behind bars. The underlying crime was serious because it diverted police resources and marginalized real hate-crime victims, he said. Smollett lied to a jury under oath in “an effort to obstruct justice in this courtroom,” and he has never accepted any responsibility or apologized, Webb said.

In a letter, Chicago police leaders called for Smollett to pay more than $130,000 in restitution, arguing that the financial cost of their investigation was “significant” and that the stress and fatigue it caused officers was “immense.”

Smollett’s defense lawyer, Nenye Uche, called for probation, arguing that the crimes his client was convicted of — filing false police reports — weren’t violent, and he doesn’t have a felony record. Smollett’s reputation and career already has been harmed, Uche said, and he’s already paid a fine and done community service. He called the charges against Smollett “a misdemeanor dressed up as a felony.” He asked Linn for mercy and said Smollett has suffered enough.

“Why are we jumping up and down acting like this is a murder case. It’s not,” Uche said, arguing that if Smollett were jailed, he could catch Covid-19 and die. “Sending Mr. Smollett to jail is almost like a death sentence. Yes, it is, because anything medically can go wrong.”

Defense mitigation witnesses, including the former Empire music director, described Smollett as a “loving and wonderful young man” who donated time and money to nonprofits. He received letters of support from several people and groups, including the Black Lives Matter organization, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Smollett’s older brother said he still believes Smollett is innocent and called him a “beacon of hope, charity, and philanthropy” who poses no threat. Sending his brother to jail would not restore public trust in the criminal-justice system, he said. Smollett’s 92-year-old grandmother, Molly Smollett, also asked Judge Linn not to send her grandson to jail. “The Jussie I know and love does not match up with the media’s portrayal of him,” she said.

At the beginning of Thursday’s hearing, Smollett’s team called for a new trial, arguing that Smollett was convicted in the press before the hearing, and that there were a “series of legal errors” in court. {snip}


Smollett was found guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct after a two-week trial in Chicago in December. The low-level charges were each tied to making a false report to police.