Jussie Smollett Will Spend 150 Days in Jail for Staging Hate Crime

Jussie Smollett, an actor best known for his role on the TV show Empire who was convicted on five of six charges in December of staging a 2019 attack made to look like a racist, homophobic hate crime was committed against him was sentenced to 30 months of felony probation on Thursday afternoon with no travel restrictions, a $120,106 in restitution to the city and a $25,000 fine, along with spending the first 150 days of his sentence in the Cook County Jail.

Smollett told the court that he is "not suicidal" and repeated his claims that he is innocent, telling the judge that he respects him and his decision. His attorneys said they planned to appeal the sentence and requested a stay of the sentence and prison time while the appeal is pending, which Judge James Linn rejected.

Prior to the sentencing, Smollett's attorney Tina Glandian spoke in favor of the defense's motion for a new trial about what she called errors that took place over the course of his trial, including what she said was the improper appointment of the special prosecutor that assigned a second round of charges against Smollett.

There was also a brief conflict between Glandian and the judge about what she claimed was a lack of involvement given to the defense in the jury selection process.

Linn responded, asking if the defense thought he should have asked potential jurors every question they submitted, including questions like "What animal would you be?" or "Do you like Batman or Superman?" which he said the defense included in their list of questions for potential jurors.

The prosecution responded, arguing against several of Glandian's complaints before handing the hearing over to Judge Linn for sentencing. Linn said he believed Smollett received a fair trial and denied the defense's motion for a new trial, calling for a short recess before continuing with the hearing, set to begin at 2 p.m. ET and actually starting around 2:20, was approaching two hours of arguments.

After several hours of character witnesses and other evidence provided by both sides, Smollett declined to speak on his own behalf before Linn handed down his sentence. Linn told Smollett that he believed nothing he could sentence Smollett with could do more damage to his life than Smollett has already done to himself and his own reputation.

He also said that it was "hypocrisy" for Smollett, as someone who has spent years of his life working with charities and advocating for civil justice, to have made a hoax out of a hate crime. The judge said that he believes this was a crime motivated by Smollett's desire for attention and as someone who worked with racial and LGBTQ-related charities for years, he must have known how much attention it would receive.

Smollett, 39, was convicted on five disorderly conduct charges for lying to police and filing false reports about the January 2019 attack, and was found not guilty on one of the disorderly conduct counts for claiming to be the victim of aggravated battery.

In the hours following the allegedly staged attack, Smollett told police that he was attacked by two men in Chicago. He told police that they yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him while hitting him, pouring bleach on him and placing a rope around his neck tied in the shape of a noose.

The actor was charged, the initial charges were dropped and eventually a second round of charges were brought against Smollett by a special prosecutor for filing false police reports and lying about the attack. His trial for those charges took place in November and December of last year.

The trial saw a pair of brothers, Abimbola and Ola Osundairo, who were actors and worked as extras on Empire testify that Smollett paid them to carry out the staged attack.

The prosecution and the Osundairo brothers said that Smollett paid them $3,500 to purchase the rope and bleach and for staging the attack. Smollett's attorneys, however, maintained during the trial that the $3,500 was for "workout and nutritional advice," claimed the two men attacked Smollett because they didn't like him and said they also tried to extort him out of $1 million in exchange for the pair not testifying in court.

The brothers testified that after the studio received racist, homophobic hate mail related to Smollett, the actor got the idea to use a staged attack to generate publicity and sympathy for him. They also said they agreed to help Smollett with the hoax because they thought he would be able to help their acting careers, and neither of them thought Smollett would actually report the attack to police.

Legal experts had predicted that considering the nature of the offense and Smollett's lack of prior criminal behavior, it was unlikely he would serve prison time for his conviction and was more likely that he would be sentenced to a combination of probation, community service or a fine.

During and since his trial, Smollett has denied his involvement in the planning of the attack and said that his reputation and career have been severely impacted by the international attention the case has received.

Two federal lawsuits are still pending related to Smollett's case, according to WGN-TV in Chicago. One, filed by the city, is seeking the repayment of about $130,000 that was used on police overtime while investigating the original reports of a hate crime. Another, filed by the Osundairo brothers, accuses one former and one current attorney representing Smollett of making defamatory statements about the brothers during the trial.

Jussie Smollett Guilty Sentencing
Former 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building for his sentencing hearing Thursday in Chicago, Illinois. Smollett was found guilty last year of lying to police about a hate crime after he reported that two masked men physically attacked him, yelling racist and anti-gay remarks near his Chicago home in 2019. Scott Olson/Getty Images