CHICAGO (AP) – Jussie Smollett was released from prison on Wednesday by an appeals court that agreed with his lawyers that he should be free pending the appeal of his sentence for lying to the Chicago PD about a racist and homophobic attack.
The decision came after a Cook County judge sentenced Smollett last week to immediately begin serving 150 days in prison for his five-time sentence of disorderly conduct for lying to the police. His lawyers have scheduled a press conference around his expected release on Wednesday night.
In an outburst shortly after the sentence was passed, the former star of the TV show “Empire” proclaimed his innocence and said, “I’m not suicidal. And if something happens to me when I walk in there, I don’t. done to myself. And this you must all know. “
The appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, said Smollett could be released after submitting a $ 150,000 personal recognition bond, meaning he does not have to pay any money but agrees to come to court as required.
Smollett’s attorneys had said he would complete the sentence before the appeals process was completed and that Smollett could be in danger of physical harm if he remained locked up in Cook County Jail.
The Special Attorney’s Office called the claim that Smollett’s health and safety were at risk “factually incorrect” in response to the motion, noting that Smollett was being held in custody. to the prison. Smollett was being held in his own cell and being monitored by security cameras and an officer, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said after he began serving his sentence last week.
Deputy Special Attorney Sean Wieber also questioned the idea of releasing Smollett because his sentence will be complete before an appeals court ruling, saying that by that logic every person facing a sentence of less than a few years would be able to remain free.
“This is simply not, and cannot be, the rule,” Wieber wrote.
The court decision marks the latest chapter in a strange story that began in January 2019 when Smollett, who is black and gay, told Chicago police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing balaclavas. . He reported that men assaulted him as he walked near his home in downtown Chicago to get something to eat. One of the men, Smollett said, put a noose around his neck.
The manhunt for the attackers quickly turned into an investigation into Smollett himself and his arrest on suspicion of orchestrating the attack and lying to the police about it.
The investigation revealed that Smollett paid two men he knew from his work on “Empire” to stage the attack.
A jury convicted Smollett in December of five misconduct offenses, the charge presented when a person lies to the police. He was acquitted on a sixth count.
Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett to 150 days in prison last week, but with good conduct he could have been released in as little as 75 days. Smollett kept him innocent throughout the trial.
Court of Appeal judges Thomas Hoffman and Joy Cunningham signed the order granting Smollett’s request for release, in which it was found that he had been convicted of non-violent crimes. Judge Maureen Connors disagrees.
Check out the full coverage of The AP of the Jussie Smollett case.