A judge sentenced Jussie Smollett to 150 days in jail Thursday, branding the Black and gay actor a narcissistic charlatan for staging a hate crime against himself to grab the limelight while the nation struggled with wrenching issues of racial injustice. Smollett responded by defiantly maintaining his innocence and suggesting he could be killed in jail.
The sentence and Smollett’s post-hearing outburst capped an hourslong hearing and more than three years of legal drama following Smollett’s claim that he had been the target of a racist and homophobic attack.
Smollett didn’t make a statement when offered the opportunity before the judge announced the sentence, saying he was listening to his attorneys’ advice. But after Cook County Judge James Linn issued his decision, Smollett removed the face mask he wore throughout the hearing to proclaim himself innocent.
“If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBT community,” Smollett said, standing up at the defense table as his lawyers and sheriff’s deputies surrounded him. “Your Honor, I respect you and I respect the jury but I did not do this. And I am not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that.”
As deputies led him from the courtroom, Smollett shouted out again.
“I am innocent,” he yelled, raising his fist. “I could have said I am guilty a long time ago.”
The judge sentenced Smollett to 30 months of felony probation, with 150 days served in Cook County Jail, and ordered that he 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 amount of prison time” 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 others who are victims of hate crimes from coming forward and reporting those crimes to law enforcement.”
Smollett’s attorneys wanted the judge to limit the sentence to community service, arguing that he had already been punished by the criminal justice system and damage to his career.
Family members echoed those comments.