Jussie Smollett takes mug shot and spends first night in jail for staging fake crime
After a three-year saga over a hate-crime hoax, "Empire" star Jussie Smollett spent his first night in jail.
The 39-year-old entertainer was booked in Chicago late Thursday after an hours-long sentencing hearing. Smollett officially became a "permanently convicted felon" when Cook County Judge James Linn read aloud his sentence in court and told him that it would begin immediately.
Smollett then entered Cook County Jail to begin serving his 150-day sentence for lying to police about faking a racist and homophobic attack on himself in January 2019. That's when he claimed that two assailants targeted him on a frigid Chicago night for being Black and gay, beat him, put a rope around his neck, splashed him with a liquid chemical and told him this is "MAGA country," referring to former President Trump's campaign slogan of "Make America Great Again."
The roughly five-month jail sentence was coupled with 2½ years of felony probation. Linn also ordered the entertainer to pay $120,106 in restitution to the city of Chicago and a $25,000 fine for his crimes.
Smollett sat quietly through most of Thursday's courthouse proceedings, but the hearing took a dramatic turn when he learned he would be incarcerated — a punishment his attorneys, family and famous friends, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and actors Alfre Woodard and LaTanya and Samuel L. Jackson — encouraged the judge to reconsider during the mitigating-factors portion of the hearing.
"I am not suicidal, and I am innocent," Smollett yelled in the courtroom before being led away in handcuffs. "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.
“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," he added, raising his fist. "I am innocent. I could have said I am guilty a long time ago."
A spokesperson for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office told The Times on Friday that Smollett would undergo a routine booking process, which includes a comprehensive medical, mental health and security assessment. He would be placed in appropriate confinement, tested for COVID-19 at intake and offered a vaccination if he hasn't been vaccinated or received a booster shot.
The entertainer, the brother of "Lovecraft Country" star Jurnee Smollett, is being housed in a medical facility on site at the jail, where individuals with higher levels of medical or mental health needs receive treatment, the spokesperson said. But the facility also can be used for protective custody, which is what Smollett's attorneys requested Thursday.
On Friday, a spokesperson for the jail said that Smollett was not being held in solitary confinement, refuting reports indicating that he was and clarifying that the practice was abolished at the corrections facility in 2016.
"Mr. Smollett is being housed in his own cell, which is monitored by security cameras in the cell and by an officer wearing a body-worn camera who is stationed at the entrance of the cell to ensure that Mr. Smollett is under direct observation at all times," the spokesperson said. "As with all detained persons, Mr. Smollett is entitled to have substantial time out of his cell in the common areas on the tier where he is housed, where he is able to use the telephone, watch television and interact with staff."
When Smollett is out of his cell, other detainees won't be around — a protocol routinely used by the jail for people in protective custody who may potentially be at risk of harm due to the nature of their charges, their profession or their noteworthy status, the spokesperson added.
Although charges against the actor were initially and briefly dismissed, Smollett was indicted a second time and stood trial during the pandemic late last year.
Smollett was found guilty in December on five counts of disorderly conduct — one count for each time he allegedly lied to police in the days immediately after he alleged the hate crime. He was acquitted on a sixth count and was not taken into custody when the verdict was returned.
“You’re just a charlatan pretending to be a victim to a hate crime, and that’s shameful,” Linn told Smollett at Thursday's sentencing.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.