After the judge announced his sentence, Smollett lowered his face mask and said he was innocent. “Your honor, I respect you and I respect the jury, but I did not do this,” the actor told the judge, before turning to the court. “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.”
Just before he was taken into custody, the actor yelled again that he was innocent and raised a fist in the air.
Cook County Judge James Linn spoke for more than 30 minutes before announcing Smollett’s sentence, telling the actor that he wrote the script and picked the actors for the hoax, and that his premeditation for the act was an “aggravating factor” in the case.
“There’s a side of you that has this arrogance, and selfishness and narcissism that’s just disgraceful,” the judge said. “You’re not a victim of a racial hate crime, you’re not a victim of a homophobic hate crime. You’re just a charlatan pretending to be a victim of a hate crime, and that’s shameful.”
Social justice figures urged for leniency
Smollett maintained his innocence under oath during the trial, but the jury convicted him on five of six felony charges after nine hours of deliberations. While a conviction for disorderly conduct for a false crime report is punishable by up to three years in prison, it is rare for a judge to sentence an offender with no prior felony convictions to prison time for the charge.
Prosecutors on Thursday urged the judge to give Smollett an “appropriate” sentence, pointing to the fact that the actor has never taken responsibility for his actions and saying he may have hurt efforts of real hate crime victims to come forward.
Smollett’s attorneys argued that he should be given a more lenient punishment such a probation, citing his lack of criminal history and community service he has performed. They read several letters which attested to that part of his life. Before announcing the sentence, the judge also spoke of the leading figures in social justice circles that asked for a lenient sentence for Smollett.
“You do have quite a record of real community service and quite a record of attaching with people,” the judge said. “I’m mindful of pleas of mercy, particularly from people that are in the arena.”
But ultimately, the judge said, this act showed Smollett’s “dark side.”
Smollett attorney Tina Glandian also argued the guilty verdict should be overturned and granted a new trial based on legal errors leading up to and during the trial. Judge Linn denied the defense’s request, saying he believed Smollett received a fair trial.
‘He shamed my brother’
In a news conference following the sentencing, Smollett’s brother, Jojo Smollett, told reporters he was disappointed with the outcome.
“He shamed my brother. He spoke about his arrogance,” Jojo Smollett said. “He doesn’t know the struggles my brother is encountering. He doesn’t know anything that he’s dealing with.”
Jazz Smollett, the actor’s sister, called the decision a “miscarriage of justice.”
“My brother is innocent,” Smollett’s sister said. “This should not be a controversial statement because it is the absolute truth.”
Special Prosecutor Daniel Webb said he was “extraordinarily pleased” with the sentence, adding that Smollett’s “conduct denigrated hate crimes.” Webb said the judge’s comments showed “he clearly has understood … that this was a course of conduct that deserved severe punishment.”
But, Foxx wrote, because of a “relentless, organized and effective” mob that criticized the decision, a special prosecutor was later assigned the case and Smollett was “indicted, tried and convicted by a kangaroo prosecution in a matter of months.”
In a separate statement Thursday night, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said it will “continue to prioritize violent crime and supporting victims as we respond to the relentless violence we are seeing.”
How we got here
Smollett was initially indicted in March 2019 on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct after police determined his reports were false.
“Who was in charge of this thing?” special prosecutor Dan Webb asked.
“Jussie was,” Abimbola Osundairo told the jury.
Smollett has no prior felonies
The primary question at sentencing was whether Smollett, who has no prior felonies, would be sentenced to prison.
CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson previously told CNN that Smollett “exposed himself to jail time” when he was tested in court.
“What Jussie Smollett said was resoundingly rejected by that jury. The jury did not buy what he was selling. That’s not lost upon a judge. You came into the courtroom and fabricated,” Jackson said.
The city of Chicago also filed a lawsuit against Smollett in April 2019 after the actor declined to pay the city $130,106.15 for the police investigation, court documents show. Smollett filed a countersuit in November 2020.
Chicago’s Department of Law noted in the city’s suit that over two dozen police officers and detectives spent weeks working on Smollett’s case in 2019, resulting in 1,836 overtime hours.
Following Smollett’s conviction in December, the city said it intended to continue pursuing its lawsuit.
During the sentencing, the judge highlighted the amount of police work that went into the investigation, telling Smollett that police resources are valuable and limited.
“You took away a lot of resources from other places, from other real victims of real crimes and used up the police resources for your own benefit, and that’s a big problem here,” the judge said.
CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.