CHICAGO (AP) – Jussie Smollett was released from prison after six nights behind bars after an appeals court agreed with his lawyers that he should be free pending an appeal against his conviction for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack.
The former “Empire” actor was released Wednesday from Cook County jail surrounded by security. He didn’t comment as he got into a waiting SUV, but his attorneys said Smollett, who is black and gay, was the target of a racist justice system and people in politics.
The appeals court ruling 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. In a rant shortly after the sentence was passed, Smollett proclaimed his innocence and said, “I have no suicidal tendencies. And if something happens to me when I go in there, I haven’t done it to myself. And this you must all know “.
The appeals court said Smollett could be released after submitting a $ 150,000 personal recognition bond, meaning he didn’t have to pay any money but agrees to come to court as required.
Smollett defense attorney Nenye Uche, speaking to reporters outside the prison after Smollett left, said the Smollett family are “very very happy with today’s developments.” Uche said during his time in prison, Smollett hadn’t eaten and drank only water, although he didn’t say why.
He criticized the Special Attorney’s decision to re-indict Smollett after the initial charges were dropped by Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx and paid a fine. He also called Judge James Linn’s excessive conviction for a low-level offense, adding that the appeals court does not “do politics”.
“The real question is: Should black people be taken to prison for a class 4 crime? Shame on you if you think they should, “Uche said.
Special Attorney Dan Webb recommended that Smollett serve “an adequate amount of imprisonment” during his sentence.
“His conduct disparaged hate crimes,” Webb said after the hearing. “His conduct will discourage other victims of hate crime from coming forward and reporting such crimes to law enforcement.”
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 his motion, noting that Smollett was being held in custody. to the prison.
The court decision marks the latest chapter in a strange story that began in January 2019 when Smollett told Chicago police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing balaclavas. The manhunt for the attackers quickly turned into an investigation into Smollett himself and his arrest on charges of orchestrating the attack and lying to the police about it.
Authorities said Smollett paid two men he knew from work on the “Empire” TV show to stage the attack. Prosecutors said he told them what racist and homophobic slurs to shout and that Smollett was in “Maga Country,” a reference to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan.
A jury convicted Smollett in December of five misdemeanor 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 – with good conduct he could have been released in just 75 days.
Smollett maintained his innocence throughout the trial. During the sentence he yelled at the judge that he was innocent, warning the judge that he had not committed suicide and that if he died in custody it was someone else, not him, who would take his own life.
Uche said the first thing Jussie did when he heard the news was to press his hands on the glass between them and said he almost lost hope in the US constitutional system. “I think he almost gave up,” Uche said.
He said the next step will be to file an appeal against the verdict.
Check out the full coverage of The AP of the Jussie Smollett case.